Friday, March 26, 2010

Georgia Supreme Court: Defense Counsel be Damned

Legal fees be damned says the Georgia Supreme Court in a recent death penalty decision. Jamie Weis has been in jail for more than three years awaiting trial for the murder a 73 year-old woman. The state has run out of money to pay for Weis' defense.

The Supreme Court was asked to dismiss the charges or order the state to forgo seeking the death penalty. The Court did neither and apparently Mr. Weis will stay in jail until an attorney proceeds on his behalf pro bono or the state gets some money.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wies had two court appointed attorneys. The state ran out of money so a judge appointed two full-time public defenders. Weis refused to cooperate with the public defenders and they withdrew. Money was later earmarked for private counsel, but never actually paid. Thus Weis sits in prison without counsel.

The majority opinion suggested that if Weis had a problem with the competency of counsel--one public defender was not death penalty certified--he could raise the issue on appeal, after he was convicted of murder. Probably not Weis' best option.

The dissenting opinion suggested, "The bottom line here is that the state should not be allowed to fully arm it prosecutors while it hamstrings the defense and blames defendant for any resultant delay." Unfortunately for Weis, that option got only three of seven votes on the Georgia Supreme Court.

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