The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are supposed to protect the basic freedoms for all Americans. This right is heightened when someone is accused of a crime. March 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires state courts to provide free public defenders in criminal cases to assist defendants who can’t afford an attorney.
Several years ago, Idaho’s Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) evaluated trial-level public defender services and concluded that state and district courts sometimes fail to provide the level of representation required by the U.S. Constitution. Advocates argue that without a more robust system of public defense, innocent people are wrongly convicted, incarcerated and even sentenced to death. We’ll hear more about those concerns, the challenges facing Idaho’s public defender system and potential solutions in this City Club forum on the rights of defendants in our judicial system.
The speakers are:
- Sara Thomas, director of the Idaho Appellate Public Defender’s office and a member of the CJC. She's a graduate of Boise State University and the University of Idaho College of Law.
- Dawn Porter, director/producer of the movie "Gideon's Army," which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to air on HBO this summer. It details the heart-wrenching stories of people caught in an often-crumbling public defense system. Before becoming a filmmaker, Porter, an attorney, was director of news standards and practices at ABC News. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Georgetown University Law Center.