Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Gideon's Broken Promise

Gideon's Broken Promise: America's Continuing Quest for Equal Justice (Dec. 2004) is a new report from the ABA's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.

Here's a kernel from the Executive Summary:

Overall, our hearings support the disturbing conclusion that thousands of persons are processed through America’s courts every year either with no lawyer at all or with a lawyer who does not have the time, resources, or in some cases the inclination to provide effective representation. All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring. Sometimes the proceedings reflect little or no recognition that the accused is mentally ill or does not adequately understand English. The fundamental right to a lawyer that Americans assume apply to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the United States.
Id. at iv.

The committee heard witnesses from -- and wrote up summaries of -- 22 states, including Washington.

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