Ohio’s public defense system continues to violate — and mock — the constitutional right of poor people to an adequate and robust legal defense. Until now, however, state officials could find solace in knowing that Michigan’s indigent defense system was even worse.
That’s about to change. Reforms overwhelmingly approved this month by the Michigan House and Senate ought to encourage Ohio also to do better.
A lack of state standards for trial-level public defense services and absurdly low pay for court-appointed attorneys have made Michigan a McJustice state, where many poor criminal defendants are convicted without even speaking to a lawyer.
Michigan runs one of the nation’s worst public defense systems, ranking near the bottom in spending per person on such services among the states. Court-appointed attorneys routinely lack the time, investigators, training, experts, and other resources to mount the kind of effective defense the Constitution requires. ...
Improving legal services for poor defendants saves money. When they get lousy legal counsel, innocent people are convicted and guilty ones remain free. Taxpayers pick up the tab for wrongful-conviction lawsuits and for unnecessary incarceration costs.
Low-income defendants in Michigan and Ohio deserve adequate, constitutional, cost-effective public defense. Michigan’s overdue efforts to improve its indigent defense services should inspire Ohio to do the same.
On this one, we're with you, Ohio. 100%.