MUGGED BY REALITY: INDIGENT DEFENDER DISPUTE FOLLOW-UP

Tue, 26 Sep 2006 04:32:31

Last night’s episode of “The Wire” turned my thoughts once more to the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP) mess. Retired police Major Bunny (Father Of Hamsterdam) Colvin took a job as a contact person for an academic study on kids and crime. The professor guy wanted to study 18-21 year olds until Bunny gave him a sample of how far gone they really are. It was the academy colliding with the real world and getting its ass kicked.

In what passes for the real world here in post-K Debrisville law professors are trying to recreate an idealized version of the IDP and keep getting mugged by reality. Professor Steve Singer failed to show up for a contempt hearing Friday but Judge Frank Marullo lifted the citation because what he’s really after is a *realistic* reform of the system. Judge Marullo has asked the 9 members of the new and allegedly improved IDP board to appear before him on October 25th. Here’s the money quote from the Picayune piece:

“If the philosophy is to crash the system to fix it that’s crazy ” Marullo said. “If you crash that system you’re destroying the city of New Orleans. You’re destroying one of the pillars of our system here that keeps everybody civilized.”

This is what happens when people take the “clean slate” notion literally. Repeat after me: there is NO clean slate. The academics who think they can bring Platonic perfection to the Orleans Parish criminal justice system need to rethink their absolutist agenda.  Back to Judge Marullo:

“All I’m interested in is that the system works ” Marullo said Friday. “There is an excuse for everything these days and its name is Katrina. I don’t even want to hear the word anymore. These people charged with some of the most heinous crimes they need representation. They are sitting behind bars and nobody is representing them right now. If they don’t have representation everybody loses. The whole community loses.”

Former senior indigent defender Dwight Doskey wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for Friday’s Picayune. Doskey is being held hostage by the dispute between the purist reformers and the judges. The Louisiana Supremes refused to allow Doskey to withdraw from representing 20 capital defendants which violates their own guidelines for the number of capital cases any one attorney can handle. Additionally Doskey lost his house to the flood and no longer lives in Orleans Parish as required by the law. Also Doskey is NOT being paid to handle these cases. It’s a farce y’all. Here’s how Doskey closed his article:

“The Supreme Court’s vote is not an expression on the legal merits of my argument. It is simply a statement that it either does not have the time or the inclination to intervene at this time. But when will it?

I realize that the judges want the system to work. Most would prefer not to dictate how the public defender system should operate and there are legal arguments to the effect that judges do not have the power to so dictate.

But this is a broken system. The defendants in my 20 death penalty cases will receive ineffective representation and therefore even if they are convicted they will be granted new trials years from now — when witnesses have vanished. (In the meantime I will be in bankruptcy.)

Without a functioning system of public defenders victims lose defendants lose the citizens lose. Public outcry is the only way to force our elected Supreme Court to participate in reforming a sadly depleted system.

Wednesday morning I was appointed to yet another capital case. This one is a quadruple murder.

Start yelling now.”

Where’s Howard Beale when you need him? 

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