‘Justice delayed is justice denied’

Calling it a ‘constitutional crisis’ judges, attorneys call for state to address public defender shortage

People are familiar with the section of the Miranda Rights that advise a person that “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” The right to counsel was established in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court, three years prior to the Miranda warning being incorporated by states. In the 56 years that have passed those who are deemed indigent, not being able to pay for legal counsel, have been afforded the right to be represented by an attorney. Previously this only applied to cases at the federal level. Since 1963, an indigent person accused of a crime has been provided legal counsel in all criminal cases from petty larceny to capital murder.
Across this country, this state and right here in Taylor County, a crisis has been building for decades. According to local attorney Karl Kelz it has been the “Not so secret secret” for many years. It has now reached a level that “liberty and justice for all” have become hollow words of the nation’s pledge to it’s people. The sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees rights to those charged with crimes- the right to a speedy, public trial by jury, the right to confront accusers and the right to the assistance of counsel. The fourteenth amendment entitles Americans to “Equal protections of the laws.” Unfortunately, several factors have caused the system to fail those accused of crimes and cannot afford legal counsel. John Yackel, Sawyer County district court judge who has been very outspoken about this issue said, “Due process of the most guilty is how we protect due process for everyone.”

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