Jamesb101.com

commentary on Politics and a little bit of everything else

Public Defenders don't defend…….

[ LAWYER AND DEFENDANT Kimberly Hurell-Harring was represented by Patrick E. Barber, left, in a case that could change the system. ]

They don’t….often over worked and under paid..they simply cope by making deals (Plea bargaining ) that have nothing to do with clients being guilty…or innocent.

Worst…in this case the public defender turned out to be the bad guy…and the defendant turned out to be dumb….. not a criminal……and lucky in the end……

SHE was poor and in trouble. He was the public defender appointed to represent her.

She was Kimberly Hurell-Harring, a nobody in the courts, a nursing home worker and a mother of two who had done something stupid. He was Patrick E. Barber, a lawyer with a silver stubble of a beard, paid by the county and state to help make the criminal justice system as fair to the poor as it is to the rich.

At his urging, she pleaded guilty and went to jail for a felony that turned out not to be a felony at all. “It seemed like he was on the D.A.’s side,” she said later.

He said recently that he had done what he could: “They had her dead to rights.”

Usually, such a minor case would go unnoticed; a little test of the constitutional right to a lawyer, results unknown. Instead it has made Mr. Barber an emblem of the problems of the state’s ramshackle system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants. On Tuesday, New York’s highest court is to considera class-action suit, filed by civil liberties lawyers in Ms. Hurell-Harring’s name, that seeks broad changes in the state’s frayed network of public defenders, who are routinely unmonitored and often overwhelmed. Her case, now being pored over by some of the state’s leading lawyers and judges, offers a window into the everyday corners of the legal system, where no one is usually watching.

It began two and a half years ago, in October 2007, in the Washington County Court here, not far from the Vermont border. In an area of the state where prisons are an industry, Ms. Hurell-Harring pleaded guilty to trying to sneak her inmate husband three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana in a condom she had hidden in her vagina.

From the courtroom benches, the few spectators saw a frightened woman who had never been in trouble before and a public defender who was not fighting for her. “She was sitting there looking stunned and confused,” said Daniel J. Freeman, a recent Yale Law School graduate who had been sent to observe by the New York Civil Liberties Union. “I didn’t see him interacting much with her.”

The story of this one defendant and her public defender, assembled through interviews and court records, is about a woman who was barely making it before the legal system helped shove her off track.

And it is also about a small-town lawyer and part-time public servant sinking in personal and professional quicksand that few people knew about when he showed up to represent Kimberly Hurell-Harring. Least of all her.

More…….

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March 21, 2010 - Posted by | Blogs, Counterpoints, Crime, Education, Family, Government, Law, Media, Men, Other Things, PoliticalDog Calls, Politics, Updates, Women | , , , , , , ,

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