Cordele judicial circuit comes under fire - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cordele judicial circuit comes under fire

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November 3, 2003

Fitzgerald- More than a decade ago Ricky Ricardo King was locked up in the Ben Hill County jail charged with murder.

"If I felt like he really did kill this person, give him time," exclaims his mother Minnie Ruth Baker.

She says her then 14 year old son got twenty years for a crime he didn't commit all because she couldn't afford a lawyer and his public defender didn't do his job.

"It worries me and I don't have the money to send him over there in prison because he can't do anything for himself. Sometimes I just hate to even talk about it because sometimes I cry and I'm tired of hurting. All I want is my baby home."

"They don't understand their rights, they are poor, and certainly they are serving time in the jail when they shouldn't serve time in jail," says Reverend James Davis, president of the Ben Hill County NAACP.

It's one of two chapters that have joined the lawsuit against the Cordele judicial circuit.

"They will take and spend millions of dollars to incarcerate and house these people but they will not spend a few thousand simply to try and get people their rights and get them represented in court," Davis adds.

There are only 2 part time public defenders between Ben Hill, Crisp, Dooly and Wilcox Counties, compared to 4 full time prosecuters, an imbalance plaintiff's say always puts defendants like King on the losing end of the battle.

"If I had the money I believe I could have saved my son from some of this. He hasn't had a childhood because he's been locked up," sobs Baker.

Plaintiff's say their will be many more heartbroken mothers if nothing is done to better the circuit's indigent defense programs.

The state, which funds about 12%t of the costs in indigent defense programs is withholding funds until the case is resolved.

Legal representatives prosecuting the case at the Southern Center for Human Rights say it the case probably won't be heard until spring of 2004.

Posted at 5:45 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com