"In many Michigan counties, judges choose from rosters of defense lawyers who make a flat rate for each case they handle. In others, contracts are awarded to small groups of lawyers who offer the lowest bid... So the incentive is to get your client to plead guilty as quickly as possible doing the least amount of work as possible."
Although this Morning Edition piece deals specifically with Michigan, I wager it goes without saying for a lot of people all over the country.
Personally, I've been able to avoid spending any time in court on my own behalf since I was much younger. I have gone to court with friends, though, because sometimes you want the support of a friend while you're dodging the judge's book. So there I've been, watching someone stand up and plead before the bench over something petty, (traffic tickets and that sort of thing) and I've been disturbed at how much the whole process resembles a sort of sausage maker in action.
Not just with my friends, but with everyone awaiting arraignment, there seems to be an established pecking order. If they have a private attorney, they've got a pretty good shot. If their private lawyer and judge are old racquetball buddies, which I've actually seen, the two interact with an almost nudge-nudge-wink-wink air and it's pretty apparent that they're going to be alright. For everyone else, though, it's time to say their goodbyes.
I've seen numerous public defenders respond to their court-appointed clients' assertions of innocence with little more than a blank stare. I've seen clients try and lay out the details of just how they came to be wrongly accused while their defenders' attention wandered. Some have politely feigned interest while others have blatantly ignored them and done everything from pick lint off their suits to engage other public defenders in small talk. I've seen them argue with defendants who wanted to plea bargain and I've seen them refuse to pursue a light sentence. I've seen public defenders get impatient with their clients after the first 10 minutes, as if taking up that much of the defender's time is a crime in and of itself. Nevermind the weeks, months or years worth of their lives the defendants are trying to save. I've also seen judges check their watches and roll their eyes while this is all going on.
What's worse is that I know a few lawyers, and they all know this is how it's done. A public defender is essentially a contractor being paid by the guilty plea and the pay per plea isn't great. They all seem to know this, yet none of them really seem to care. Not the lawyers. Not the judges. You might say that law school trained them not to uphold the law, but to mass-produce convicted criminals for profit. Produce more, earn more.
It's the American Way.
I hate to go all in-my-day here, but when I was a kid I made more regular visits to the courts. Back then, they at least heard you out. Innocent people had a chance to prove their innocence, or explain their circumstances. They were often even invited to do so. Now it's as if the guilty and the innocent alike are just so many Hungry Hungry Hippos marbles, and the entire justice system is clamoring to devour as many, as quickly, as possible.Monday 18 June 2012 at 02:01 am.
Used tags: convictionindustrialcomplex, corruption, criminal, doomed, injustice, publicdefenders