Ga. Supreme Court rejects public-defender complaint

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ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected today claims of two homeless Glynn County men who argued that inadequate funding of the state's public-defender system was keeping them from getting a fair trial.

Bernard Henry Robinson and Ralph Woods Sr. are awaiting trial for the 2008 beating, stabbing and shooting death of another homeless man, John Steven Mitchell. Monday's decision means their trial can proceed.

The men argued, through their attorneys, that charges against them should be dropped because they couldn't get a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Constitution, and as a result, homeless witnesses who might have offered helpful testimony have drifted since away.

Robinson and Woods are among four homeless men originally charged with Mitchell's death. The Circuit Defender's Office represented all of them in their preliminary hearing, but that turned into a conflict of interest when two of the codefendants agreed to testify against Robinson and Woods.

Without the funding to operate multiple defenders offices, the circuit isn't able to quickly assign separate attorneys from different offices to indigent defendants in the same trial. Private attorneys must be hired instead.

The nine-month time lag in finding new attorneys was the question before the Supreme Court. Since the state provided the defense attorneys -- as well as the police, prosecutor and judge -- Robinson and Woods' attorneys told the justices that the state is to blame for the lag and that the only remedy would be to drop the charges.

"As the state conceded, a delay of 18 months is presumptively prejudicial," Justice Harold Melton wrote for the court. "However, the reasons can be attributed equally to both the state and the defense. The court concludes that Robinson and Woods never even asserted their right to a speedy trial until shortly before the trial was set to begin, which was nine months after their new lawyers had been appointed."

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robbie1
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robbie1 05/03/10 - 10:11 am
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18 months for the trial?

18 months for the trial? That's a bit much. I have to wonder about the quality of their representation if it took them nine months after they took over the case. Economic status should not impact the application of the justice system.

veggie-d
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veggie-d 05/03/10 - 10:47 am
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the wheels of justice turn

the wheels of justice turn veerrrrrryyyyyy slowly robbie1...as for your concern about the poor/homeless being delayed their day in court...economic status has an opposite effect on the wheels of justice...the MORE money a person has the more slowly they turn...turn...turn...

corgimom
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corgimom 05/03/10 - 11:40 am
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Murder cases generally come

Murder cases generally come to trial 1-2 years after arrest.

"The court concludes that Robinson and Woods never even asserted their right to a speedy trial until shortly before the trial was set to begin, which was nine months after their new lawyers had been appointed.""

That was their legal strategy- and it didn't work.

fishman960
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fishman960 05/03/10 - 02:09 pm
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robbie1
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robbie1 05/04/10 - 12:57 am
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I guess it shouldn't surprise

I guess it shouldn't surprise me. It took RC eight months to set a court date for my son's DUI. Nothing like swift justice to teach those criminals a lesson.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/04/10 - 09:00 am
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They complete a murder

They complete a murder investigation and trial in one hour on Law and Order. But “speedy” has a whole different meaning in the real world.

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