Monday, June 27, 2011

Why we can't afford the death penalty in Pennsylvania, ctd

A lawyer weighs in on that flat $2,000 preparation fee the state pays defense lawyers in capital murder cases:
Think of it this way. As a lawyer I charge a little under $200 for the paper-pushing work I tend to do: contract negotiating, real estate transactions, and so on. Two grand is ten hours of my work, which doesn't involve attempting to preserve someone's basic liberties -- mostly it involves bringing a deal to a close, or winning someone's money back, or securing some intellectual property rights.

Criminal defense involves securing someone's fundamental liberty not to be kept in a prison by the government. A capital case involves securing someone's fundamental liberty not to be killed by the government. Even if I were to do that work for you for $200 per hour, wouldn't you hope I work more than 10 hours on your case?
A cynic might suggest that Pennsylvania politicians are happy to see capital murder defendants walk into court with one hand tied behind their back. But even if we refuse to speculate about motives, how can anybody deny that poor murder defendants are hugely disadvantaged on what is supposed to be a level playing field?

The conclusion remains the same: Death penalty jurisprudence in Pennsylvania is unbalanced, unfair, and ultimately ineffective. Why are we holding onto this system?

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