The cost of defending the poor will escalate in Augusta courts, beginning today.
The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with an Augusta man recently that he was unfairly convicted after a judge found he had waived his right to an attorney at trial.
Only two of six members of the local Indigent Defense Committee showed up Monday to hear about concerns that might cost taxpayers an extra $200,000 if not corrected. At the committee's request, the executive director of the Georgia Indigent Defense Council, Michael Shapiro, traveled from Atlanta to Augusta to explain why he's worried about how the local committee appoints and pays attorneys to represent poor people in the Augusta Judicial Circuit -- composed of Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.
No longer patiently waiting for answers, Georgia Indigent Defense has sent an investigator to Richmond and Burke counties to determine if attorneys are competently defending two men facing possible execution if convicted of murder. "We're not shopping for clients," said Michael Shapiro, executive director of the Georgia Indigent Defense Council. "But we need to ensure proper defense in these cases."
Attorney Sam Cruse's resignation from the local Indigent Defense Committee was a compromise to prevent a legal battle at taxpayers' expense to force him off the committee, one member said Thursday. Mr. Cruse, who did not return a phone call Thursday, said Wednesday night that he resigned of his own free will to devote more time to his law practice. He turned in his letter of resignation, effective June 1, at the committee's March 16 meeting.