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New Orleans Public Defenders Featured on 60 Minutes Sunday

The system is so overburdened that in 2016 New Orleans Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton began ordering his staff to refuse to take on clients facing the most serious felonies. Cooper's report on the New Orleans justice system will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  

Past and current attorneys of the New Orleans Public Defenders Office tell Anderson Cooper they believe innocent clients have gone to prison because they lacked the time and resources to defend them properly.   The system is so overburdened that in 2016 New Orleans Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton began ordering his staff to refuse to take on clients facing the most serious felonies. Cooper's report on the New Orleans justice system will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  

All nine of the attorneys agreed when asked by Cooper if they believed an innocent client went to prison because they didn't have enough time to spend on their case. Watch the excerpt.

When 52 attorneys are responsible for 20,000 criminal cases a year, as in New Orleans, they do their best says Bunton.  But often, indigent defendants will not get the quality defense they are entitled to. “You can't provide the kind of representation that the Constitution, our code of ethics and professional standards would have you provide,” says Bunton.   Asked if it's not better to have a busy lawyer than no lawyer, Bunton does not hesitate, “No. A lawyer poorly resourced can cause irreparable harm to a client.”  

Cooper follows one case of a man arrested in New Orleans who sat in jail for more than a year before an attorney presented evidence to the court showing he did not even match the suspect's description.  He also speaks to the man's original public defender who got so fed up with not having the time to provide quality defense, she quit. 

At the time, Lindsay Samuel represented nearly a hundred clients facing a life in prison.  She felt she was “Always coming up short.  The first thousand clients you feel terrible. The second thousand clients, you feel awful,” she recalls.  “Every day my clients are going away for a decade and I just move along to the next client,” says Samuel.

Bunton shows Cooper a warehouse full of the nearly half million cases handled by his office in the past decade.  He says 90 to 95 percent of the defendants in those cases pled guilty, many because they lacked confidence in an overburdened public defender being able to provide them with an adequate defense.   The justice system in New Orleans has become a criminal processing system says Bunton, “A conveyor belt that starts when you are arrested and then there's hands that touch you on your way to prison,” he tells Cooper.  “It's not about figuring out…your innocence…and that's what we are fighting to change,” says Bunton.

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NAPD News

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 
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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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