Getting it right the first time
May 30, 2017
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
Those words have been repeated to offenders in real life and on television over the past half century since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that someone suspected of a crime must have their rights explained to them.
There haven't been many civilizations in the history of the Earth where someone suspected of a crime has anywhere near the same right to a defense as they do in ours.
That's because we presume people to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
It might be counter intuitive, but just as critical to that process as judge and jury, police and prosecutor is the role of the public defender.
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It has not been uncommon to hear the role of public defender disparaged over the years. Three of the four attorneys we contract with to provide those services have served as prosecutors here. Two of our sitting judges served for years as public defenders.
We're no strangers to the criminal justice system in Douglas County, and we can say categorically that an indigent defendant here can count on an aggressive defense.
That's means that few criminal cases tried in Douglas County are overturned on appeal. On Thursday, that contract, which totals $783,333, goes before county commissioners.
That seems like a lot of money, but it would be spent quickly in a couple of retrials. If we can't afford to try someone right the first time, how are we going to pay to do it again?