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September 18, 2010

"Georgia capital cases in US Supreme Court crosshairs"

The title of this post is the headline of this new AP article, which gets started this way:

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped into four Georgia death penalty cases in the last year or so, and it could yet again intervene — this time over a defendant who said he languished in jail because the state couldn't pay his lawyers.

It's the latest test for Georgia's justice system, which has come under scrutiny in recent years. The state's new public defender program has had funding trouble ever since it spent $3 million in 2008 defending Brian Nichols, the man convicted of killing a judge, court reporter, sheriff's deputy and federal agent during a 2005 rampage at an Atlanta courthouse.  And the Georgia Supreme Court has been criticized for not reviewing death penalty appeals closely enough.

In this case, Jamie Ryan Weis, who is accused of killing a 73-year-old woman, argues there was a "complete breakdown" in the system when he sat in jail without an attorney for more than two years.  The U.S. Supreme Court could decide after a closed-door conference Sept. 27 whether it wants to intervene.

"It's especially surprising because this Supreme Court is not an anti-death penalty court," said Donald E. Wilkes Jr., a University of Georgia Law School professor who specializes in death penalty cases.  "Maybe they think that Georgia is giving the death penalty a bad name, if that's possible."

But Weis' case may not be as simple as he claims.  Prosecutors said Weis was never without legal representation, though they concede his lawyers were limited by a funding shortfall.  "The Georgia Supreme Court properly determined there was not a systemic breakdown in the indigent defense system in Georgia," Beth Burton, a senior Georgia assistant attorney general, said in arguments.

September 18, 2010 at 02:27 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Bingo. This is the location of the bottom line. You are tripping over it.

Innocent, guilty, not in question. Victims' family? No one cares.

Get the funding, and this so called conservative Supreme Court is satisfied. This so called conservative Supreme Court is disgusting.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 18, 2010 3:21:09 PM

I hope the Court stays out of this, because if they get involved they will only make matters worse by ratifying this farce as constitutional. Like in McClesky, the implications of ruling for the defendant in this case would be too broad. Fear of too much justice strikes again!

Posted by: Anon | Sep 19, 2010 3:48:51 PM

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