Indigent defense in Dougherty County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Indigent defense in Dougherty County

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May 1, 2003

Albany-- Superior Court Chief Judge Loring Gray says the state's new indigent defense law will not improve Dougherty County's public defender program, But it will cost more taxpayer dollars. Judge Gray agrees the new state wide mandate is needed in some counties.

The majority of criminals who appear in court in Dougherty County are poor and can't afford lawyers. So the county appoints an attorney to represent them and you pay for it. Now, changes are being made in the way low income criminals are represented.

A statewide public defender system will be created by 2005. In Dougherty County that will be in addition to the list of ten lawyers who are routinely appointed to represent the indigent.

Judge Gray says he worries that could be a step down in quality for defendants. Gray said "I'm worried that we are going to have a rotation of young attorneys just out of school who will do it as a public service or do it because they need a foot in the door. They'll come down here for a year and be gone."

Dougherty County will be able to keep their indigent defense system along with the state hired public defenders. But Lt. Governor Mark Taylor says the statewide public defender system is needed to insure quality attorneys in poor counties. "If they don't have good lawyers, they don't have good legal counsel, it's very very unlikely that even an innocent person could be found not guilty."

The state will now pick up more of the 60 million dollars spent in Georgia on indigent defense. But Judge Gray says it will still cost each County more too.

 Judge Gray said "The County is now going to have come up with space, equipment, staff, and all those other attachments to the operation of a law office, which this is tantamount to."

The new Georgia public defender system is set to open in 2005, with an oversight board that enforces performance standards.

posted at 4:01 by jimw@walb.com