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8.08.2003

If You Cannot Afford An Attorney...

Compared to being arrested for spitting in public (Singapore), the United States legal system is quite fair. But despite its superiority over many other legal systems, the U.S. courts remain a briar patch of hit-and-miss justice, far from perfect. Many people, especially those with no real prior experience with the court system, are shocked when they discover this. And when it matters most, as it does in Kirstin's case, the glaring imperfections can render perfectly good evidence of innocence obsolete. So what's going on?

Lots of things, actually. You may think that nothing is perfect, and you'd be right. But this isn't a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's so broken that it's barely running. And if it were your freedom on the line, I guarantee you'd be praying that someone would take note of that.

For example, let's say you could not afford an attorney. Forget the cost of a capital case for a moment...competent legal defense for lower class felonies will still be in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars. Do you have that much lying around, or saved up?

Thanks to the legal system, if you cannot afford an attorney you are given a court-appointed public defender. But contrary to popular belief (that is, before having the actual experience of relying on a public defense team), the defense the government provides for you will often be woefully inadequate. That means, from the start, that it doesn't matter if you are innocent or guilty. Statistically speaking, you are more likely to be punished for the crime. This undermines the very concept of being innocent until proven guilty, because a person is left with no effective way to prove otherwise.

An example: if a forensics expert was able to provide substantial proof that you could not have commited the crime, wouldn't you want an attorney that was skilled enough to have that expert's proof heard? Consider this, if you would.


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