Counsel for the Poor
In America, poor people accused of crimes, even in death penalty cases, are appointed lawyers from the local bar who are often unprepared and always underpaid. Without a state public defender system or resources to obtain adequate legal representation, poor people in Alabama are being sentenced to death at record levels. It is not surprising that in such a system the poor are often inadequately represented at trial. Many defense lawyers call no witnesses or fail to present any defense; some fail to make closing arguments; few object to clear constitutional error; and most are reluctant and unwilling participants in a trial process that is adversarial in name only.
Alabama remains one of the few states in America that does not have a statewide public defender system. Increased hostility towards the plight of the economically disadvantaged threatens to undermine the equal administration of justice. Thousands of prisoners in Alabama have been sentenced to life in prison without parole and other excessive punishments for non- violent offenses.
As a result of inadequate representation, many people have been illegally convicted and sentenced. An alarming number of these men, women, and children are innocent. Death row prisoners have been convicted even though their lawyers were cited as being drunk in court, subsequently disbarred, or publicly supported a conviction and death sentence for their client.