Georgia Case Raises Questions about State's Indigent Defense System

 The National Law Journal this week wrote about a case arising out of Georgia in which an indigent, capital criminal defendant sat in jail for four years because of problems with funding his defense and is now asking for the U.S. Supreme Court to review right-to-counsel claims.  The appeal “comes at a time when an increasing number of legal challenges are being made to underfunded and overburdened state indigent defense systems” across the country.  The Georgia indigent defense system has long been plagued by problems.  And while legislation in 2003 to shore up the system offered promise, adequate funding remains elusive.

The defendant is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court after an unfavorable ruling from the state’s hight court.  Here is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on the case from this past March, noting that “[t]he Georgia Supreme Court on Thursday narrowly rejected a bid to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a defendant who has sat in jail for more than three years awaiting trial because there has been no money for his defense.  The 4-3 ruling said the state did not violate Jamie Ryan Weis’ right to a speedy trial and placed some of the blame on the defendant and his attorneys.” 

Georgia’s underfunded public defense system has received a good deal of coverage recently.  The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments in a case very similar to this one earlier this month, according to another Atlanta Journal-Constitution article.  And, the Associated Press recently covered the sad financial state of the system.

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