Getting around Gideon
The sums raised by these ever-mounting fees are intended to help offset some of the enormous costs of operating the criminal justice system. But even relatively small fees — $40 per session, say, for a court-ordered anger management class or $15 for a drug test — can have devastating consequences for people who emerge from prison with no money, credit or prospects, and who live in fear of being sent back for failing to pay.The private companies that run probation threaten my clients repeatedly. I have to warn them that they are not supposed to go to jail simply not for paying. I mean, they will go to jail, but we have a defense if the only violation is not paying court costs. But what happens when the probation officer, whose entire office is paid by these fees, is successful at scaring the probationer so much? The probationer stupidly misses a meeting, then ends up going to jail when they get picked up for months and months. Cost to the taxpayer? Thousands upon thousands of dollars each time it happens. I mean, I am very sure to tell all my clients, emphatically, but I handle just a small percent of all probationers. Unfortunately, some of them don't understand the game, or they are not educated enough to understand even when I have told them.
Besides this insanity, it is clear that many of the fees are simply efforts to circumvent Gideon and its guarantee of free legal counsel.
Judge James R. Thurman of the Magistrate Court in Lee County, Ga., said his state's many fees, known there as add-ons, were a backdoor way to make poor people pay for the free lawyers guaranteed to them by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963.I mean, the Times outlines in that article how a man in Louisiana has been billed $127K for his fourth and final trial (the earlier murder convictions of 1961, 1964 and 1970 were all reversed), where he was finally convicted of a lesser and released after serving 44 years on a crime with a
"You're asking the people who can't afford to hire an attorney to pay anyway by making them pay through add-on fees," Judge Thurman said.
21 year maximum. I don't know if you can put a price on 23 years extra in prison, Angola nonetheless. It is idiotic for Judge David A. Ritchie to rule that Mr. Rideau "was responsible for all of the charges billed by the prosecution" for his fourth trial.
Judge Ritchie apparently uses the but for cause from tort law, forgetting the more important proximate cause test. After all, even if the trials would not have occurred but for Wilbert Rideau's killing a bank teller, the proximate cause of his four trials? How about because the justice system was inept! It seems he spent 23 extra years, wasting both the state's money and his life, because he likely had inept trial counsel. After all, Louisiana's public defender system has long been inept.
Judge Ritchie should be familiar with the facts of this case. I mean, was it Mr. Rideau's fault that in his first trial he only had two appointed civil attorneys with no prior experience with a criminal case. Although they only had six weeks to prepare, among other errors at trial:
The judge refused to disqualify persons who were friends or relatives of the victim or the witnesses. He refused to disqualify a man who had only months before printed campaign literature for the prosecutor. The defense quickly used up its allotted challenges. As a result, the jury included two Calcasieu Parish sheriff's deputies, a relative of the victim, a vice president of the largest bank in the area (who had known the wounded bank manager-a key witness for the state-for twenty-five years), and three persons who admitted they saw Ham Reid "interviewing" Wilbert on television.The second trial occurred in Baton Rougue, within the range of the television station that had broadcast Rideau's coerced confession, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that no trial could occur within such an area!.
What happened in the 1970 trial was a travesty, basically just another judicially sanctioned lynching of a black man without adequte legal counsel:
The attorney in charge of Rideau's 1970 defense readily acknowledged as much to Judge Ritchie. Baton Rouge attorney James Wood had only been out of Louisiana State University Law School for two years when he was summoned by the judge in charge of the 1970 trial to handle the defense. When he complained that he did not have the minimum five years legal experience required to represent a capital case, Wood testified recently, the judge told him not to worry because he was appointing as co-counsel a maritime law attorney to meet the criteria. But the understanding was that it was Wood's case. He was provided no compensation for himself and no money for investigation; he was given no resources at all. He defended Rideau out of his own pocket.These three prior trials clearly involve racial prejudice. The only thing missing were the hoods. though one prosecutor in the second trial admitted his membership in the Citizens Council, the genteel counterpart to the Klu Klux Klan. Given Judge Ritchie's desire to allow transcripts from the 1970 trial to be read at trial, deciding that Rideau's (ineffective!) counsel already had an opportunity for cross, this suggests that the judge is either unaware of the history or none too concerned about the rights of citizens or the rule of law.
Regardless of Judge Ritchie's justification based upon this but for cause rather than proximate cause for costs, the citizens should not tolerate such a blatantly unjust ruling. Rideau played no role in making there be four trials, three of them unfair, or that he spent an extra 23 years in prison. Because Rideau lost so much of his life, if anything, the costs should be a wash and this most rehabilitated prisoner should be allowed to try and make a life outside of Angola.