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Argument: The poor can obtain sufficient public representation to defend their interests in plea bargains

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Supporting evidence and analysis

  • Judge Michael McSpadden, criminal court judge in Harris County (Houston). PBS Interview. December 16, 2003 - "Can it work properly for poor people? 'Certainly. A lot of times they don't have money for the bond. But in our court, and in the majority of the courts here in Harris County, that is the biggest myth out in the public -- that if you are unable to afford your own attorney, you get some court-appointed attorney that's just going to run you through the system without caring. I've got three of the very best attorneys who work in the system, either retained or appointed. The appointed attorneys down here are better than 95 percent of retained attorneys that come through the courts. So in our court, anyone who cannot afford an attorney is given excellent representation.' Do they have time and money for investigators? 'I get bills for investigators' fees all the time for my court-appointed attorneys. To give you an example on the myth out there -- I have three attorneys who have been with me for a long, long period of time. They work only in our court. They're paid on a weekly basis. And out of the hundreds of cases these have tried, I have not heard one juror -- much less jury -- complain about that court-appointed attorney when I bring back the juries at the end of the trial. In contrast, I'd say three out of five juries complain about the retained attorneys who try the cases out there. See, that's the myth out there. We had a sleeping lawyer about 16 years ago, which Harris County is going to be known for forever. We're never going to get rid of the sleeping lawyer during a capital case. That person should never, ever have been appointed that case, and that case should have been reversed immediately. But because of that, we're known for appointing sleeping lawyers. It just doesn't happen. It's the biggest myth out there, as I said. We do a very good job of appointing competent, qualified attorneys.'"

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