The efficacy of the Indigent Defense system in Louisiana is again in its “jeopardy” state of existence.

Particularly, and specifically in the 4th JDC, a Defender Model District; an attorney handling a case in Morehouse Parish has a defendant, that the State has announced plans to seek Habitual Defender status, for a Drug Apprehended convicted felon, in possession of a weapon.

The defendant is “targeted”, by the criminal justice system.  Louisiana is the last system, in America at this time, that should be found attempting to “add to the already burgeoning incarceration rate.”

Distribution of counterfeit substances is one of the charges, for which, Lee George is held and to be prosecuted of. However, drug law has changed.

If, however;  the drugs are counterfeit, how can he be prosecuted on “possession of narcotics, and possession of narcotics with a weapon, by a felon?

This is not the transpiring of any form of justice, especially so, if the Indigent Defense Attorney, is doing nothing more than, “meeting the requirement for a defendant, to be represented by an attorney“. This amounts to inadequate assistance of counsel. 

“By now, the line is etched permanently in the memory. It was heard in every episode of “Law & Order” and countless other police shows on TV.

You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will appointed to you.

It’s part of the Miranda rights that protect us against overzealous police and prosecutors, as American as the premise that all are to be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The reality is, in most cases, police get it right. The person arrested is guilty. And providing representation is costly to taxpayers. Approximately 90 percent of cases in the criminal justice system require a public defender. Why bother?

Easy. The system can get it wrong. Look at all of the cases where DNA evidence has shown erroneous convictions. Imagine the chaos and the greater chance of error if competent legal representation wasn’t provided.

The statues of Justice seen around courthouses show a woman blindfolded, not to turn an eye to systemic abuse but to assure fairness.

So it should concern everyone that more than 40 percent of Louisiana’s public defender offices ran deficits in 2013.

The state Legislature appropriates $33 million to the state Public Defender Board, which then doles out the money to the local offices: $17 million is divided among the 42 local districts; $13 million goes to nine nonprofit organizations — $9 million to death penalty cases; and $3 million accounts for the state board’s budget.

The share for the 4th Judicial District makes up only 25 percent of its budget. And with the state’s budget woes, those funds might be in jeopardy.

The other 75 percent comes from local funding based on traffic ticket fines or forfeited bail bonds. Recently, those funds, too, have been declining. The district has enough money to fund indigent defense through August 2016.

When that money runs out, desperate measures may be taken. In 1986, lack of funding resulted in attorneys — some with little criminal defense experience — being appointed by the courts to handle public defense, some without compensation. Pity the defendant who has to rely on counsel that is inexperienced coupled with a lack of motivation.

If the 4th District has to again rely on appointed attorneys, the docket certainly will slow down. That requires longer stays in jail in cases where bail is a problem, adding to the taxpayers’ costs.

But a greater concern lies with the possibility cases could be reversed because adequate counsel could not be provided. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled defendants are entitled to adequate counsel, and if that cannot be provided a guilty verdict can be reversed. That serves no one. Retrial further ties up the courts, increases costs and plays with the dignity of the defendant.

A local criminal case policy board is looking at ways to improve finances to prevent a worst case scenario. It’s imperative that 4th District Attorney Jerry Jones and the court do everything they can to improve the collection of fines, fees and assessments. Justice depends on it.

The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star’s editorial board, composed of General Manager and Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, Business and Politics Reporter Greg Hilburn and Education Reporter Barbara Leader.”

In this situation, Lee George a 25 year-old black male is represented by a public defender.  In a conversation with his appointed attorney’s secretary, it was ascertained this defender has upwards of 300 cases.

How in the world, then can a “fair” reckoning of Justice be evidenced in this vacuum.

Seven charges, from 2009 include illegal weapons, and new charges of the same; amongst others.  And so, Habitual charges are being pursued.

George was arrested on charges of distribution of schedule II narcotic (crack), possession of drug paraphernalia, conspiracy to distribute schedule II narcotics, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm while in control of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of marijuana, second offense.


Lawmakers worried about the governor’s proposal to shrink spending on the Louisiana Public Defender Board.

The board monitors and assists the state’s 42 judicial district offices that provide attorneys for people too poor to afford lawyers. It also contracts with nonprofits to handle appeals in death penalty cases for poor clients.

State Public Defender James Dixon said there are already “restrictions in services” in seven parishes because of funding shortages: East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Bossier, Webster, LaSalle and Vernon parishes.

He said more parish public defenders’ offices are on the edge.

“We need a reliable and stable and adequate funding source that will not fluctuate from year to year,” Dixon told the committee.

Jindal’s budget proposes spending $33.4 million on the indigent defense board next year, a $728,000 drop from this year.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, said lawmakers are hearing from public defender offices around the state about financing concerns.

Budget Concerns.

This burgeoning underclass being created, by incarceration instead of rehabilitative restorative justice is dehumanizing society.  Particularly, if the incarcerated poor realize the criminal justice system’s indigent defense apparatus is a farce, in more instances than not; they and their families will have lost confidence in the American Judicial process.

On another note,

A few weeks ago, a former prosecutor in Caddo Parish, La., named A. M. Stroud III wrote a letter to the editor of The Shreveport Times that quickly caught fire on the Internet. Over more than 1,400 anguished words, Stroud apologized for his leading role in the 1984 trial of Glenn Ford, a Louisiana man who was convicted of murder and spent nearly 30 years on death row in Angola, the state’s maximum-security prison, until last year, when his conviction was overturned and he was released.

“In 1984, I was 33 years old,” Stroud wrote. “I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” He apologized at length to Ford, then went on to declare that he now opposed the death penalty as an “abomination” that could not be justly administered. “No one should be given the ability to impose a sentence of death in any criminal proceeding,” Stroud wrote. “We are simply incapable of devising a system that can fairly and impartially impose a sentence of death because we are all fallible human beings.”

It is Evident, that human nature is encroaching upon “fair judicial process” in the case of Lee George. And, in this specific judicial process, human nature has entered the process, and a “basic illegal prosecutorial maneuver” is about to occur.  In order to lock this individual away, a twenty-five year old has done enough to be incarcerated on that basis; and because the government, the State of Louisiana, Morehouse parish should not be holding this defendant on the charges for which they are, now.