I listened to this NPR story on the way home from work. It asserts that there's a nationwide problem of underfunded public defender programs. In Detroit, the story's focus, there aren't enough defenders to go around, they're so poorly paid that they attract the least qualified attorneys, and those on staff don't get paid for basic activities related to representing their clients:
Kelly asks him if she should plead guilty. He doesn't tell her what to do, but it's very clear he has little interest in taking this case to trial. Critics of the system say a lot of appointed defenders, at this point, will urge their clients to plead guilty because they aren't paid enough to really prepare for trial. A defender in Detroit receives $180 for a basic full-day felony trial. Eaman says that doesn't even come close to covering trial costs.
"The system does not provide the lawyers with the tools they need to defend their clients," Eaman says. "Investigators are very important, expert witnesses are very important. In an appointed case, you need permission of the court. You don't always get permission of the court, or if you do, you get such a small amount of money that you can't find anybody to do the work for you."
I would gladly pay higher taxes to ensure that this very basic function of government -- criminal justice -- is carried out properly.