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    Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?

    Raise the curtain.

    Justice in Michigan

    By Tom McMillin, Section News
    Posted on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 08:18:00 AM EST
    Tags: indigent defense, justice (all tags)

    I wanted to keep everyone here at RightMichigan in the loop about a serious Constitutional debate going on in Lansing and one that I am fortunate to be a part of.  Last week in Flint, Governor Snyder presented a special message on public safety and while his call to hire new lab techs and Michigan State Police troopers garnered most of the headlines, he also talked about some broader fixes to our state's justice system.   Of course, it is important that we keep in mind that reforming state government starts with and must be guided by our Constitution.  

    (Continued below the fold. Please read more...)

    Last October the Governor issued an executive order creating the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission and charged it with the responsibility of analyzing all of the available information and then making recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on how to improve the state's system of providing legal representation to those who cannot afford an attorney, a right guaranteed by the 6th amendment to the United States Constitution.  

    I was honored that House Speaker Bolger asked me to serve on the Commission.  As a fiscal conservative, I strongly believe that trying to ensure equal justice for our citizens is one of the few things government should do.  We are talking about taking away our citizens' freedom.  Conservatives tend to get pigeon-holed into being strictly anti-criminal-defense, but the fact of the matter is, we're strictly pro-Constitution.  

    The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States grants every resident accused of a crime the right to an effective public defense, even if that resident cannot afford an attorney.  Just like protecting freedom of speech, religion and the right to bear arms, the right to an adequate defense is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and a fundamental duty of our government.  Effective prosecution and defense representation are each essential to a working, fair and constitutional justice system in Michigan.

    Since October the Commission has had numerous meetings and what we are learning is unsettling and unacceptable.  

    We recently heard directly from one of the men who was falsely imprisoned in large part because of the failure of our state's system of protecting his Constitutional right to effective defense.  In 1990, after a 45 minute trial, 21 year old David Tucker was convicted of assaulting his manager at work despite serious problems with the prosecution's case that would have been easily picked apart by a competent defense.  

    Tucker spent six years in prison before a federal court vacated his conviction, set him free and all charges were dropped.  Hearing Tucker tell his story, I was struck by exactly how important it is that we uphold the Constitution.  These are real people and real injustice.

    Bottom line, in Michigan our Constitutionally-mandated public defense system is failing in some areas of the state.  The system is failing Michigan families, it is failing Michigan taxpayers and it is failing to live up to the Michigan Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.  There exist dozens of different indigent defense systems in our 83 counties.  The type of justice a citizen who is unable to afford an attorney receives varies greatly depending on the county in which he is accused.

    While the Commission will continue to meet through July, it is already abundantly clear that change will have to happen.

    Every single one of our Constitutional rights is important.  Failing to uphold the United States' Constitution's 6th Amendment right to effective counsel wastes tax dollars, puts public safety at risk and is just plain unfair.  Michigan is going to have to do better.  Stay tuned.

    < Video Of The Day - Rebuttal | Because The Question Needs To Be Asked >

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    This is all well and good... (none / 0) (#1)
    by KG One on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:44:22 PM EST
    ...but is are something more that you trying to allude to here? Or is post only meant to solicit suggestions?

    If you're looking for input, my opinion is that you're approaching this from the wrong angle. Instead of focusing on this issue from the standpoint of public defenders, I'd focus more on the competency of the judges actually presiding over the cases themselves. If the person on the bench cannot see that there is a problem with a public defender, then why are they silent on this issue? What mechanism is in place, or can be put in place, to hold those inept judges accountable?

    Getting assigned as a cell-mate someone you sentenced earlier, just because you failed to do your job while hearing a case, is an excellent incentive for those judges to pay better attention on what's going on in their own courtroom.

    My take is that this is a (not-so) thinly veiled attempt by the likes of NLADA & the ACLU to get more money for their own cause célèbre.

    In that situation, I would remind them of another quote recently made by the Governor, "The state is simply not an ATM machine."

    You have to understand the Justice Department (none / 0) (#4)
    by Bruce on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:40:44 PM EST
    is a misnomer.

    For most prosecutors, it is a game which determines the monetary and power value of their careers.  So, rules are bent, exculpatory evidence is suppressed, and technicalities twist the concept of truth into knots.

    Judges are human and have their own biases.  If they are not challenged about their biases, they will continue using them in their decisions.

    Hence, a defendant must have competent representation in order to have a fair chance at acquittal.

    Note that nothing in the above refers to "justice."

    Would Mr. McMillen (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by grannynanny on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 07:09:56 PM EST
    care to comment on the HHS releasing the rules on the state's health care exchanges whereby each person who purchases health care thru the exchange will be charged $1 per month to cover abortion services.

    Yup gotta pass the health care bill to see what is in it.

    • horrible by Tom McMillin, 03/13/2012 10:10:37 PM EST (none / 0)
      • Like by JGillman, 03/13/2012 10:30:53 PM EST (none / 0)
    Thannk you, Representative (none / 0) (#8)
    by LessGovernmentPlease on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 07:35:01 AM EST
    I normally just lurk here but I thought somebody should actually thank the Representative for sharing his thoughts and experiences in this article.

    As far as I know, he is the only state lawmaker who blogs here under his own name, right out in the open, for everyone to see and interact with.  

    I like that and I appreciate his consistent conservatism on this issue hes talking about today with the indigent defense reform.

    To try to answer a question from up above, no, I don't think he was asking for suggestions per se although I'm sure he appreciates them.  I think he was just updating us because he cares about the people who read this blog.  (And I think he deserves better than getting threadjacked by comments about other things.  But even then he is engaging so thanks to him.)

    Thats all.  Thanks to you for the updates and for protecting the Constitution Representative McMillin.  

    Some of us here actually look forward to hearing more.

    Is the Advisory Commission also... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Corinthian Scales on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:48:06 AM EST
    ...addressing what qualifies as a LEO in Michigan?

    Simply lining the pockets of the shyster side of the equation is nibbling at the edges of the problem.

    Sorry I have been quite busy (none / 0) (#11)
    by JGillman on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 10:55:52 AM EST
    so didn't get an opportunity to hit on this better.

    Thanks for your efforts Tom.

    Proper representation is paramount, AND a guarantee by the 6th.

    The other parts of the issue (judges etc..) need to be addressed in some way, but first things first.  Those others will fall in place.

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