Bad lawyering can happen with both Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys. When lawyers fail to do their work competently and with integrity, the impact can be felt across the criminal justice system, as innocent defendants may be convicted while the guilty party remains free to commit future crimes.
There are a number of reasons why a defendant’s defense may not be sufficient:
- Resources in judicial system are stacked against poor defendants.
- Defense lawyers can be ineffective, incompetent, or overburdened with too many cases.
- Overworked lawyers may fail to properly investigate, call key witnesses, or adequately prepare for trial.
- Public defenders and court-appointed attorneys are not able to access adequate resources because of decreased funding.
A review of exonerated cases has shown a trail of unacceptable defense lawyering practices at the trial and appeal levels. In some of the worst cases, defense attorneys have:
- Slept in the courtroom during trial;
- Been disbarred shortly after finishing a death penalty case;
- Failed to investigate alibis;
- Failed to call or consult experts on forensic evidence; and/or
- Failed to show up for hearings.
Public defense offices must be adequately funded and staffed so that attorneys are not required to take on more cases than suggested by ABA guidelines. In order to provide the best possible defense for the accused, state and local funds need to remain substantial. Securing adequate pay for public defenders can improve competency and quality of defense attorneys by insuring that the best attorneys are hired and will remain in those positions as they gain more experience. All defense attorneys must have the training, ability, and desire to provide sincere advocacy for their clients.
To read more about the crisis in our “right to counsel” services in the U.S. click here.