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Public Defender News
2012 - 2014

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Experts say law enforcement’s use of cellphone records can be inaccurate

(The Washington Post © 6/27/2014)

The use of cellphone records to place suspects at or near crime scenes is coming under attack in courts nationwide, challenging an established practice by federal and local law enforcement that has helped lead to thousands of convictions.

Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones

(The New York Times © 6/25/2014)

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

End 'debtors' prisons' in Ohio and the nation: editorial

(The Plain Dealer © 6/3/2014)

Low-level offenders shouldn't go to jail simply because they are too poor to pay the fines levied against them by judges -- either in Ohio or in the United States as a whole.

Man convicted of killing parents to be freed from prison

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/30/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Robert Caulley was declared a free man today, more than 17 years after he was charged with murdering his parents in their Jackson Township home.

Defenders Organizing To Give 'Gideon' Teeth

(The National Law Journal © 5/12/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Their home page prominently displays a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." Their invitation: Join the resistance.

Ohio struggles with rising prison population

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/12/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

When Gary Mohr began his career at the Marion Correctional Institution in 1974, there were 8,516 inmates in state prisons.

Prisons are ‘new asylums’ in U.S.

(The Columbus Dispatch © 4/10/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Reinforcing their role as the “new asylums,” U.S. prisons now house 10 times as many seriously mentally ill people as state psychiatric hospitals do, a new national report shows.

There Are 10 Times More Mentally Ill People Behind Bars Than in State Hospitals

(MotherJones.com © 4/8/2014)

Severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are brain diseases—biological conditions like heart disease or epilepsy.

Public Defenders, Bolstered by a Work Analysis and Rulings, Push Back Against a Tide of Cases

(The New York Times © 2/18/2014)

On a typical recent morning Colleen M. Polak, a St. Louis County public defender, ran upstairs and down and up again and in and out of four courtrooms, simultaneously representing clients in 10 cases.

In debt and in jail

(Akron Beacon Journal © 1/8/2014)

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court took a welcome step toward eliminating what many consider an archaic, long-forgotten institution — debtors’ prison.

●  Collection of Fines and Court Costs

Leonard Pitts Jr. commentary: Fourth Amendment protections aren’t what they used to be

(The Columbus Dispatch © 1/16/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Fourth Amendment.

Woman convicted in 2001 of setting fire that killed two daughters asks for new trial

(The Plain Dealer © 1/2/2014)

A Cleveland mother sentenced to two life terms in prison after a jury found she set a fire that killed her two young daughters is asking for a new trial.

Trials a rarity in Ohio, U.S.

(The Columbus Dispatch © 1/13/2014)

(Subscription may be required for article access) 

Knowing he would go to prison for at least six years if convicted at trial, Donald E. Griffin decided to accept a plea deal that could lead to probation for fatally shooting a burglar outside his East Side home.

Rampant Prosecutorial Misconduct

(The New York Times © 1/4/2014)

In the justice system, prosecutors have the power to decide what criminal charges to bring, and since 97 percent of cases are resolved without a trial, those decisions are almost always the most important factor in the outcome.

Police chiefs lead effort to prevent wrongful convictions by altering investigative practices

(The Washington Post © 12/2/2013)

The nation’s police chiefs will call Tuesday for changes in the way they conduct investigations as a way to prevent wrongful convictions, including modifying eye­witness identification.

Student whose criminal case raised big legal questions takes plea

(The Athens News © 11/24/2013)

More than a year after she was arrested for allegedly interfering with police officers during the 2012 Athens Halloween weekend, Ohio University student Kelly Kasler finally resolved her criminal case this month with a plea bargain.

Surrender Imminent?

(CityBeat.com © 9/4/2013)

After 42 years, the war on drugs has imposed enormous costs on Ohio and the rest of the country, pushing state budgets and prison systems to their limits.

Appellate court shoots down judge’s denial of public defender

(The Athens News © 9/4/2013)

In a strongly worded ruling, the 4th District Court of Appeals has overturned a local judge's decision to deny an Ohio University student a court-appointed attorney, based on the size of her parents' income.

Judge finds breathalyzer not scientifically reliable

(The Columbus Dispatch © 8/22/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

A court decision discrediting the reliability of machines used by hundreds of Ohio law-enforcement agencies to test drunken drivers could be the “death blow” for the controversial devices, defense attorneys say.

Revolving door: In Ohio, state and local re-entry programs are helping more ex-offenders succeed and stay out of prison

(The Toledo Blade © 7/3/2013)

Prisons are often said — somewhat inaccurately — to operate revolving doors: Offenders serve their sentences, get out, commit new crimes, and return to prison.

Poor inmates leave jails short on pay-to-stay fees

(The Columbus Dispatch © 6/27/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio concludes that pay-to-stay fees in jails are not the money-generators they often are advertised to be, and the programs hurt poor inmates and their families.

Court says pre-Miranda silence can be used

(The Associated Press © 6/17/2013)

The Supreme Court says prosecutors can use a person’s silence against them if it comes before he’s told of his right to remain silent.

County spends more on lawyers

(Springfield News-Sun © 6/15/2013)

Champaign County is spending nearly twice as much to provide legal defense for its poor in the last decade, consuming more of the county’s budget.

Report details sex-assault crisis in Ohio's juvenile prisons

(The Columbus Dispatch © 6/7/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

The Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility has a sexual-assault rate estimated at 30.3 percent, second highest in the U.S., according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Big issues in dispute in OU student’s legal appeal

(Athensnews.com © 5/29/2013)

The Ohio Public Defender's office has fired back in a battle over a local judge's ruling that said an Ohio University student did not qualify for a Public Defender attorney because her parents pay her bills.

Mental-health fix not just about money

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/28/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Improving America’s mental health isn’t simply a matter of providing more money, national and Ohio experts say, although better funding would help.

Access to mental-health care is woeful

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/27/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Tom and Dorothy Lane are convinced their mentally ill son committed “suicide by cop” two years ago because he was worried about his health-care insurance expiring the next day when he turned 26.

Mental-health system overwhelmed, underfunded

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/26/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Nearly 15 months have slipped from the calendar since T.J. Lane rained death from a.22-caliber pistol in a small northeastern Ohio school.

Ohio excels in defusing potential tragedies

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/26/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Ohio leads the nation in taking some of the danger and unpredictability out of encounters between people with mental illness and the criminal-justice system.

Right to attorney is muddled after 50 years

(TheNews-Messenger.com © 5/25/2013)

Ohioans spent nearly $53.5 million last year on attorneys appointed to defend criminal defendants too poor to pay because of a half-century old U.S. Supreme Court decision that experts say doesn’t guarantee individuals a quality lawyer — or even a sober, awake one.

Ohio courts shouldn’t bring back debtors’ prisons

(The Toledo Blade © 5/11/2013)

When defendants can’t pay court costs , some judges jail them; these practices are inhumane, discriminatory, and a waste of tax money.

Attorneys question possible connections to Ariel Castro of 1980 murder of West Side girl

(The Plain Dealer © 5/9/2013)

Attorneys who maintain that Orlando "Chico" Morales was wrongfully convicted in 1981 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Cleveland 14-year-old girl say this week's charges against Ariel Castro made them ponder possible connections to the old case.

Samuel Hamilton Porter | 1927-2013: Attorney earned respect of those he met

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/8/2013)
(Subscription may be required for article access)

Samuel Hamilton Porter, 85, an active member of the central Ohio legal community for 60 years, died Sunday after suffering a stroke three weeks ago.

Why You're in Deep Trouble If You Can't Afford a Lawyer

(MotherJones.com © 5/6/2013)

In January 1962, a man sitting in a Florida prison cell scrawled a note to the United States Supreme Court. He'd been charged with breaking into a pool hall, stealing some Cokes, beer, and change, and was handed a five-year sentence after he represented himself because he couldn't pay for a lawyer.

Bill of Rights Part 6: Public defender has seen it all

(CantonRep.com © 5/5/2013)

What you see inside the courtroom is only half the story.

Grant the DNA test

(Ohio.com © 5/5/2013)

Judge John Enlow of the Portage County Common Pleas Court should not have to think long. He should move quickly to grant the retesting of DNA evidence in a 1990 double murder case.

Prison for debtors

(Ohio.com © 4/9/2013)

In a recent investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio found disturbing evidence of what many would consider an archaic, long-forgotten institution — debtors’ prison.

Editorial: Public defender system needs an overhaul

(The Herald Bulletin © 3/26/2013)

In order for justice to work, everyone has to have equal access to the laws and justice system. This is no problem for people who can afford attorneys. For those who can’t, however, justice often takes a backseat.

The Sixth Amendment’s promise of a fair trial fades

(Vindy.com © 3/27/2013)

The United States reached a mile mark 50 years ago when the Supreme Court of the United States responded to a handwritten petition on five pages on prison-issued stationery filed by a petty thief in Florida who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

The trouble with using police informants in the US

(BBC World Service © 3/26/2013)

Some law enforcement agencies in the US use informants in as many as 90% of their drug cases. But there are surprisingly few rules on how informants are used and a groundswell of calls for the system to be reformed.

Court won’t dismiss student’s appeal

(The Athens News © 3/20/2013)

An appellate court has ruled that an Ohio University student's appeal can proceed in a case in which a local judge denied her a public-defender attorney in a criminal case.

Gideon’s Muted Trumpet

(The New York Times © 3/17/2013)

FIFTY years after the Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, guaranteed legal representation to poor people charged with serious crimes, low-income criminal defendants, particularly black ones, are significantly worse off.

Serious problems persist in indigent legal defense

(Associated Press © 3/17/2013)

It is not the happiest of birthdays for the landmark Supreme Court decision that, a half-century ago, guaranteed a lawyer for criminal defendants who are too poor to afford one.

Fifty years after Gideon, lawyers still struggle to provide counsel to the indigent

(ABA Journal © 3/1/2013)

In June 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of the handwritten pauper’s appeal from a Florida inmate named Clarence Earl Gideon, the court correspondent of the New York Times immediately knew he had a good news story on his hands.

The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50

(The New York Times © 3/9/2013)

A half-century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone too poor to hire a lawyer must be provided one free in any criminal case involving a felony charge

Forensic science commission will take on concerns about quality of evidence used in criminal cases

(The Washington Post © 2/16/2013)

The federal government announced Friday that it will commit a scientific agency and launch a national commission to tackle recurring concerns about the quality of forensic evidence used in criminal courts across the country.

Scott Fraser:  Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

(www.Ted.com © 9/2012)

Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes -- and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create "memories" they could not have seen.

Ex-cop imprisoned 15 years for murder ruled innocent

(The Columbus Dispatch © 1/30/2013)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

The steely expression that usually controls Doug Prade’s face softened to quivering lips and puffy eyes. He was moments away from stepping outside prison walls as an innocent man for the first time in 15 years.

Decriminalizing Minor Offenses Could Help Indigent Defense Crisis, ABA Committee Report Says

(ABA Journal © 1/8/2013)

The “perpetual crisis in indigent defense” could be lessened by moving minor infractions—including minor drug offenses—out of the criminal justice system, according to a new report by an ABA committee and a national group of criminal defense lawyers.

Group backs efforts to bar dying man’s blinking as testimony against Ohio murder suspect

(The Washington Post © 1/4/2013)

The national Innocence Project is backing a murder suspect’s efforts to exclude from his trial a videotape of a dying man’s eye blinks, which prosecutors say identify him as the gunman.

Prosecutors’ folly

(The Toledo Blade © 1/2/2013)

Ohio prosecutors seek a new law that would allow them to demand that criminal defendants undergo trial by jury for more-serious crimes.

Criminal justice reform saving states billions

(The Washington Times © 12/27/2012)

The news media are enthralled with the drama of the wrestling match at the brink of the “fiscal cliff.”

Mayor's courts are out of order: editorial

(The Plain Dealer © 12/18/2012)

Tiny Linndale thwarted last year's attempt to close its overactive Mayor's Court by growing in size -- slightly exceeding a 150-resident threshold an Ohio lawmaker proposed to try to shut down such small-town speed traps.

The gravest injustice

(The Toledo Blade © 11/23/2012)

No one know how many of the 2 million men and women locked up in America’s prisons and jails are innocent.

'Cash register justice': Private probation services face legal counterattack

(Open Channel on NBCNews.com © 10/2012)

Kathleen Hucks was walking her dogs down the dirt road that leads out of Mim’s Rentals, a small trailer park in rural Augusta, Ga., when a police officer in a cruiser stopped her on Labor Day weekend.

Failing the indigent

(The Blade © 10/21/2012)

The U.S. Constitution grants every person accused of a crime the right to effective defense. But that right is violated every day in courts around the country, including those in Ohio and Michigan.

US: Teens in Solitary Confinement

(Human Rights Watch © 10/10/2012)

Young people are held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the United States, often for weeks or months at a time, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report released today.

Should appeals wait for inmates to be competent?

(Dayton Daily News © 10/9/2012)

The Supreme Court seemed inclined Tuesday to eliminate the authority of federal judges to indefinitely delay a death row inmate's federal appeals in the hope that the convict would become mentally competent enough to help his or her lawyer with the appeals.

All Police Interrogations Should Be Tape-Recorded

(The Slate Group © 8/31/2012)

Thinking about something other than the presidential race will probably be a healthy emotional break.

Vendor to handle inmates’ cash

(The Columbus Dispatch © 8/31/2012)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Sending money to any of the 49,474 inmates in Ohio prisons will soon be a little easier — or a little harder, depending on your point of view.

How the Supreme Court Came to Embrace Strip Searches for Trivial Offenses

(TheNation.com © 8/16/2012)

This past April, the five conservative Supreme Court Justices gave jail officials the right to strip and search every person arrested and jailed, even if the alleged offense is trivial and there is no reason to suspect danger of any kind.

Questionable justice

(The Columbus Dispatch © 7/26/2012)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Ohio's mayor’s courts operate with lots of power, make lots of money and have little or no accountability. This situation is a recipe for abuse, and one that the General Assembly should act to end.

Full Eighth District Reverses 3-Judge Panel, Overrules 2009 Precedent on Ohio Criminal Sentencing Law

(Court News Ohio © 7/25/2012)

The full Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cleveland sitting en banc found this month that Ohio law requires probation department supervision of a defendant placed on community control sanctions only when there is a condition that must be overseen or a term during which a defendant’s conduct must be supervised.

Ohio's mayor's courts, big business

(The Columbus Dispatch © 7/22/2012)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

The rap sheet against Ohio’s mayor’s courts says that some spend public funds on holiday parties and flower arrangements, fail to properly account for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and use traffic fines to prop up village budgets.

Ohio’s local justice

(The Columbus Dispatch © 7/22/2012)

(Subscription may be required for article access)

Worthington’s mayor’s court is an imposing one, as mayor’s courts go. It has a judge’s bench, a podium at which defendants stand and a large projector screen to replay videos of traffic violations.

DNA tests lead to new trial for man serving life term

(The Columbus Dispatch © 7/10/2012)

Dewey Jones’ quest to prove that he isn’t a murderer took another step forward yesterday when a judge overturned his felony conviction and granted a new trial for the Akron man, who has served 17 years of a life sentence.

Challenges pouring in over new breath test

(The News-Herald © 6/24/2012)

A controversial breath analyzer machine is dealing a blow to some drunken driving cases.

Judge orders defender aid

(Timeleader.com © 6/16/2012)

WILKES-BARRE – Finding that the Luzerne County Public Defender’s office is “approaching crisis stage,” a county judge on Friday ordered the county to provide adequate funding, but he stopped short of dictating how much money or staff needs to be added.

Washington Courts: Supreme Court Adopts Standards for Indigent Defense; Case Limit Guidelines Effective in 2013

(Courts.wa.gov © 6/15/2012)

Olympia, WA June 15--The Washington Supreme Court has adopted new Standards for Indigent Defense Services. The new standards will be effective September 1, 2012, except Standard 3.4 regulating caseload limit guidelines which will take effect September 1, 2013.

Lawyers take risk in public defense

(The Columbus Dispatch © 5/28/2012)

Kate Craft knew she wanted to be a public defender when she graduated from Capital University Law School in 2009.

A jury pool's race can deny justice

(CNN © 5/23/2012)

The Sixth Amendment right to a trial by an impartial jury is the bedrock of our criminal justice system. Yet the promise of impartiality is called into question when defendants face juries that include few, if any, members of their race.

Greene County Court adds hearing for defendants who reject plea offer

(Dayton Daily News © 5/21/2012)

Based on two recent United States Supreme Court decisions, the Greene County Common Pleas Court has added another hearing for defendants who reject a prosecutor’s plea offer.

DNA evidence doesn’t match inmate serving time for murder

(The Columbus Dispatch © 4/24/2012)

New lab test results show that DNA recovered from a murder scene in Summit County didn’t come from an Akron man who has served 17 years of a life sentence for the crime.

Fewer Ohio inmates being paroled

(Newark Advocate © 4/15/2012)

Ohio longest-serving prisoners are finding it increasingly difficult to get out on parole, an opportunity not even afforded most of those sent to prison since 1996.

Ohio Supreme Court pares sex-offender law

(The Columbus Dispatch © 4/4/2012)

Automatically making juvenile sex offenders register with law-enforcement agencies for life and putting their names and photos on the Internet are cruel and unusual punishments, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday in another rebuke of the state’s sex-offender law.

Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer, imprisoned for beating elderly woman to death: Whatever happened to ...?

(The Plain Dealer © 4/2/2012)

Whatever happened to Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer, who spent 13 years in prison for beating an elderly woman to death and were released last year after newly discovered DNA evidence suggested another suspect could be the true killer?

Retiring Public Defender staffer recalls 30 years

(The Athens News © 4/1/2012)

When Tammy Bolin first applied for a job at the Athens County Public Defender's office back in 1982, she recalled, she was "just 18, fresh out of high school," and had no experience whatever in the legal profession.

Why are millions of Americans locked up?

(CNN.com © 3/12/2012)

I'm an attorney and I represent incarcerated people, both in my home state of Alabama and across the United States.

Local officials look to state to pay indigent-defense bills

(The Columbus Dispatch © 2/26/2012)

Getting counties out of the business of providing defense lawyers to the poor would not only save local governments money but also even out the justice system, proponents say.

State tries to ease job hunts of ex-cons

(The Columbus Dispatch © 2/20/2012)

The feared question that trips up one in six Ohioans — “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” — will soon disappear from state job applications.

Parents on trial in their sons’ drowning

(The Columbus Dispatch © 1/31/2012)

The parents of two young boys who drowned in the Muskingum River last summer should be convicted of manslaughter for their lack of common sense, prosecutors said at the couple’s trial yesterday.

Heath resident acquitted of allegations in injured baby case

(Newark Advocate.com © 1/27/2012)

A Heath teenager was acquitted of three felony counts after a judge found there was too much doubt about how a 4-month-old infant sustained serious injuries.

Proposal would limit options of defendants

(Middletown Journal © 1/16/2012)

Conviction rates in southwestern Ohio are almost 80 percent and judges appear to be harsher than juries.


"Then be not too eager to deal out
death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety.  Even the wise
cannot see all ends."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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