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We treat people equally
Of the 2.2 million inmates in the United States, more than sixty percent are members of racial and ethnic minorities, and the law puts a disproportionate number of them on death row.
That Supreme Court decision, Gideon, 50 years ago said, you have the right to an attorney in a criminal case, even if you cannot afford it. When the justices ruled In Gideon’s favor, hundreds of prisoners who also had been denied their legal rights were freed or given new trials and our current system of public defenders was born
For decades the poor had really been very vulnerable in our criminal court system and frequently faced very severe punishments alone. What Gideon did was basically say that our constitution requires that we treat people equally when their life and when their liberty is at risk. And it changed the way we thought about counsel for the poor in this country. we have tolerated extremely bad lawyering in these cases.
The average disbarment rate in most states is about one percent of lawyers. Washington State, one percent of lawyers end up disbarred or suspended. But the “Seattle Post-Intelligencer” looked at all the 84 cases that resulted in death sentences and found that 20 percent of those cases involved lawyers who were later suspended or disbarred.
Ted Rudow III, MA