Lack of funding for public defense leads to systemic problems in Michigan
@1 year ago with 24 notes
Frederick Mardlin is a 32-year old married father of three who spent three years in jail for a crime that he did not commit. He was wrongfully convicted of burning down his house to collect the insurance. His court-appointed public defense attorney was unable to obtain the funds to retain an electrical expert to testify at his trial. That expert could have testified that the fire was not set intentionally but caused by faulty wiring.
So Fred sat in jail for three years before he was paroled. Because he insists on clearing his name, he is appealing his conviction. Although he is entitled as a matter of law to a court-appointed appellate attorney, the State of Michigan refuses to pay that attorney’s bills. Fortunately, the attorney has agreed to work on Fred’s case free of charge. The attorney has also located a pro-bono electrical expert who is willing to help Fred overturn his conviction.
Fred’s story illustrates how Michigan’s public defense system is often unable to effectively represent its clients and how, despite constitutional guarantees, a court hearing does not ensure a fair just decision. Too often, innocent people go to jail, those who have broken the law receive sentences that are harsher than the facts of their crime warrant.
Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems, a new report issued by the ACLU, ACLU of Michigan and the Campaign For Justice, shows how Michigan’s crumbling public defense system allows innocent individuals to become collateral damage as a result of inadequate legal representation. The report tells the stories of men who were charged with crimes, were inadequately represented by public defense attorneys and consequently incarcerated for years.
"I SPENT 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine. Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today."
@2 years ago with 73 notes
@2 years ago with 277 notes
#prison #justice #racism
A confession: for someone who views himself as a liberal with a commitment to social justice, I know woefully little about US drug policy and its broader impact.
Ask me about marijuana decriminalization or the baleful effects of the Drug War, and I will say all the right progressive things, but without any of the conviction I bring to arguments about tax policy, the healthcare debate, or labor law. Maybe it’s because many of the drug policy activists I’ve met have combined their legalization or decriminalization advocacy with hippie-dippie Green Partyish sentiments that I’ve disregarded drug policy as some vaguely counter-cultural distraction.
But it’s not.
The federal government spent at least $14 billion in 2010 fighting the War on Drugs. States and localities spent billions more. So it’s a deficit issue.
Black non-Hispanic males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6 times higher than white non-Hispanic males and 2.6 times higher than Hispanic males. It’s a racial justice issue.
The United States has only 5% of the global population but houses a quarter of the world’s prisoners. See my chart for more. The drug war is not the sole cause of these injustices, but it is a major one, so I for one, will do my best to not relegate the issue to the margins or treat it as a joke. It’s past time to get serious.