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Archive January 2017

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Suppressing Criminal Evidence - A Review

Suppressing Criminal Evidence, a new publication from James Publishing, is a massive endeavor of Deja Vishny, longtime Wisconsin State Public Defender. Although titled ‘Suppressing Criminal Evidence’ this book is about far more than the practice of filing motions to keep evidence out of court. This is a book about trial practice and client practice: it is a how-to on representing individuals accused of crimes in our criminal courts.

"Exoneration Act" Unfairly Puts Burden on the Innocent

There wasn’t a great deal of money at stake and the number of defendants the decision might affect was not large, but I thought the decision was so manifestly unfair that I couldn’t just forget it and move on to my next case.  Mr. Madden and Ms. Nelson couldn’t get the time back that each spent in prison; the State had to at least give back their money.

The Parable of the Sower: Why We Can't Kill Dylann Roof

We struggle, you and I, with how we separate the violence of the criminal from the violence of the State. By this I mean we know somewhere, deep down, that what repulses us is the inclination to violence, and whether that violence is meted out by some twisted, drug-addled teenager with a host of inter-personal issues or by the Government, we don’t really like it.

Supreme Court Issues Decisions on Double Jeopardy, Bank Fraud, and Insider Trading

The U.S. Supreme Court issued three criminal opinions in November and December on double jeopardy, bank fraud, and insider trading. The cases are: Bravo-Fernandez v. United States, Shaw v. United States, and Salman v. United States. You can read recaps of these decisions in the blog post below. 

NAPD Opposes Sessions' Nomination

By his own words, actions and failures to act over the course of many decades, continuing uninterrupted down to the present day, Senator Sessions has demonstrated that his views on both criminal justice and mass incarceration are not only extreme, but also far outside the strong bi-partisan consensus that has emerged in support of significant reform of both our broken criminal justice system and our nation’s failed policy of mass incarceration. 

Inauguration Day

Today, let us remember that we are on ones who preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Remember that winning doesn’t make you great. Standing for something does. Remember that we don’t quit and we can’t be bought. We are the best defense money can’t buy. Remember that facts are stubborn things, just like us.

Letter to a Public Interest Lawyer

I was asked to write a letter to public interest law students, and given the leeway to choose the topic, I decided to pen an answer to this question. I laid out a vision that understands public defenders as the catalyst for transforming our criminal justice system.  I explain why, although "good" prosecutors are certainly preferable to bad ones, they cannot transform our justice system.  They can certainly make it less cruel.  But they cannot make it fair.  Public defenders, who collectively help give voice to 80% of those in the system, are the key to rewriting this narrative.

Public Defense Deep in the Heart of Texas' Death Penalty Country

David Slayton, a Lubbock County, Texas official, and Jim Bethke, the Executive Director of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, had an idea.  They were in a state where 1062 persons have been sentenced to death from 1974 to 2013, and 538 were executed, a third of all persons executed in the US in the past 40 years.  4.3 million of Texas’ 27.4 million population live in rural Texas.

Let's Address Illegal Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System

We defenders stand with those who both celebrate the progress in the reduction of overt racial exclusion from housing, jobs and voting and lament the economic inequalities, unconscious bias and veiled attempts to undermine rights achieved through a protracted struggle. And we also focus our energy on work to bring more advancement towards the equality of all, especially in our criminal justice system.

Mandatory Life Sentences: We Are Nothing More Than Our Crime

In my eight plus years of public defending, this was my first time witnessing a life sentence imposed on a client.   Despite the gravity of the proceedings, I had nothing to do or prepare for.  Our state’s legislature had deprived the Judge of any discretion to alter or reduce the sentence.  Anything I could say on my client’s behalf would be moot.  The law left me powerless to save Mr. Sekhon from the life sentence before him.  
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NAPD News

April 16, 2017: 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper features the Orleans Public Defenders and NAPD General Counsel in a substantive segment about public defenders' excessive workloads, pervasive injustice, and the obligation of defenders to resist the "conveyer belt" of mass-incarceration. You can watch the compelling segment HERE 
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On March 18, 2017 - the 54th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainright decision - NAPD published its Foundational Principleswhich are recommended to NAPD members and other persons and organizations interested in advancing the cause of equal justice for accused persons.  

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On March 2, 2017, NAPD released its Statement on Reducing Demand For Public Defense: Alternatives to Traditional Prosecution Can Reduce Defender Workload, Save Money, and Reduce RecidivismThere are more than 2 million people in jail and prison in the United States. This is a four-fold increase since 1980. This increase and the racial disproportionality among incarcerated people has led to alliances across the political spectrum to address the impact on people and on budgets.  As the new Coalition for Public Safety has put it, “Our country has an ‘overcriminalization’ problem and an ‘overincarceration’ problem — and it’s getting worse." NAPD authored this statement because there is a great opportunity to make transformative changes that can improve justice and save money.  A variety of organizations representing a wide spectrum of political views have joined together to end the systematic problem of overcriminalization and narrow the net of incarceration by reforming criminal codes.