Wednesday, June 27, 2007
This morning, the Tennessee Justice Project released a new report by The Spangenberg Group detailing between funds made available to the defense and prosecution of indigent criminal cases. The report finds that the prosecution receives over $130 million per year, while the defense receives only $56.4 million - a more than 2 to 1 ratio. To make matters worse, when you take into account the in-kind support offered to the prosecution, by local, county, state, and federal support and law enforcement, the disparity is more than 4 to 1 in favor of the prosecution!
Our criminal justice system is set up on the principle that everyone is entitled to a fair trial with an adequate defense? How can we possibly claim to live up to this principle when the deck is stacked against the defense to such a serious extent?
And remember, nearly every one of Tennessee's death row inmates are indigent. In fact the best predictor of whether or not someone accused of a capital crime will get the death penalty is not the facts of their crime, but whether or not they can afford a lawyer! This study demonstrates why this is true. The fact that such an imbalanced system can be allowed to make the ultimate decisions regarding who lives and who dies is absolutely unthinkable!
The report's release has received state wide media attention. The City Paper here in Nashville has the story here, and the Knoxville News Sentinel carried it as well, quoting the Knox County public defender as saying that his office is so overworked that the lawyers in the office have only an average of 72 minutes per case!