Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Nichols Coverage

Posted by Maggie on February 27, 2008

It’s not exactly an update because nothing new has happened, but there is some coverage of Nichols today. (Thanks to StandDown Texas for catching this one. Creative Loafing isn’t on my normal list of sources.)

Creative Loafing, our local alternative paper, has a story on the Nichols case. It’s not surprising that their coverage is pretty critical of the State’s lack of adequate funding for indigent defense in general. (They quote Stephen Bright. But also add opinions from J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb prosecutor, and Charles Clay, one of the legislators who brought the indigent defense legislation through in 2003. All think that everyone needs to lay off and pay up.)

What I saw here that hasn’t received any attention that I’ve seen is this:

Senior Judge Hilton Fuller – who presided over the Nichols case until he resigned in late January – signed a secret court order in 2007 that earmarks all remaining state funding for death-penalty cases to the Nichols defense team.

Mack Crawford, executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, which administers the death-penalty funds, let the cat out of the bag about that secret order when he testified in a court hearing in November that no money would be available for other trials until the end of June.

“There is a sealed order that I cannot discuss,” Crawford testified, according to a transcript. “If Judge Fuller’s order stands, all of the money I have available for the balance of this fiscal year would technically be embargoed or committed to that one case.”

Crawford declined to comment to CL, and Fuller’s order is so little-known that even Wilson Dubose, a Madison lawyer who chairs the council, expressed surprise when told of Crawford’s testimony.

Still, Bright points out that Fuller isn’t the only Judge who’s made this kind of order. Several other judges have demanded funds from the council to no avail. So my guess is GPDSC will do with the funds whatever it wants to, just like it always does.

And again, no surprise, Mack Crawford has no comment. Shocking.

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