Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Does Georgia Hate PD’s?

Posted by Maggie on September 13, 2007

In the car yesterday I heard a brief story from the local station about underfunding of Georgia’s PD program.  A spokesman from the Southern Center was interviewed. She made a nice statement about not abandoning this young system.

In the AJC today, we hear that apparently the Southern Center and others are just getting in the way. The NAACP, the Southern Center, the ACLU, and Amnesty International held a press conference yesterday trying to encourage Georgia to increase funding for Georgia’s poor defendants. Two depressing comments are given from the other side. First, the new GPDSC head:

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes that I’m afraid I cannot talk about yet,” said Mack Crawford, a former state representative who is now head of the Public Defenders Standards Council. “I feel like we have an opportunity to build a lot of credibility back with the Legislature and I’m not sure they are helping.”

There have been complaints before about GPDSC seeming to be at odds with this mission. The new regime may not be improving anything. And another comment from Governor Sonny Perdue:

“Some, particularly the capital defenders, interpret that constitutional rights as you just sign the check and let us fill in the amount,” Perdue said. “I think there’s got to be some balance in there.”

This quote makes me so ill I’m not sure how to respond to it. Perhaps I’ll do so after the jump.
Having the death penalty costs money. Just like prison and probation. The death penalty means a whole line of extra time-consuming appeals. It costs money to defend because the state has made the decision to prosecute as a death penalty case. It seems to me that the fact that we have had a substantial reduction in cases where the death penalty is ultimately given because of the Capital Defenders is saving the state a large amount of money.
And let’s not forget that the prosecution spends money, too. For every defense expert, there’s probably another prosecution expert. It goes both ways. I’m getting really tired of seeing all these complaints about the Nichols case extended to the entire system. This is the system. This is how it works. Lawmakers refusing to allow it to work is going to lead to more expense, lawsuits, appeals, who knows what. Why we can’t just sit down and work this out is beyond me.

Worse, I don’t understand why GPDSC won’t accept the help it’s offered by these great groups. I understand we have politics here, that’s been a justification for a long time. But taking up politics and abandoning your principles strikes me as misguided. All I hear GPDSC talk about any more is money. There’s a reason for the money, and GPDSC should be proud of its work. They should be out there convincing the legislature that this is the right thing to do as well as the fiscally responsible thing to do. GPDSC not taking pride in its work doesn’t give anyone any reason to give them the funding they need, and I bet they need more than they’re asking for.

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