Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reasons why this courthouse is different

Berrien County Court Information
(Berrien County, Michigan)

-- Approximately 90% of the court's litigation involves trying and usually convicting residents from only one town in the county: Benton Harbor. That's out of 60 municipalities.

-- Harsher sentences than the fact of the warrant and no alternatives to incarceration. (African-Americans from Benton Harbor receive harsher sentences whether guilty or not. Example: in Sept. 2010 DeMarco Allen was sentenced to 45 years even tho the normal sentence is 9 months in the county jail. He was in possession of some ecstasy pills.)

-- Right before sentencing, judges force defendants to say they are happy with their court appointed attorneys.

-- Defense attorneys never see clients until they have entered the courtroom and everyone present can hear their conversation, ie, "I'm your court appointed attorney. Plead guilty; there's too much evidence against you."

--The indigent defense service has the following deficiencies, among others.

No written client eligibility standards.
No merit-based attorney hiring and retention program.
No written attorney performance standards or meaningful systems of attorney supervision and monitoring.
No guideline on how to identify conflicts of interest.
No attorney work standards.
No adequate attorney training.
No independence from the judiciary. Judges, prosecutors, and indigent defense all work together against defendants.

-- There exists the inability of indigent defense counsel to put the case against their clients to the test of the law.

-- Court appointed attys. do not provide a legal defense for the defendant.

-- Wrongful denial of representation. (Defendants are denied legal representation since defense attorneys are simply there, but not defending.)

-- Wrongful conviction of crimes.

-- Unnecessary or prolonged pre-trial detention. Defendants stay until they plead guilty.

-- Guilty pleas to inappropriate charges and denial of the right to trial when meritorious defense is available.