: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Reasonable Doubt TV: Todd Dupont, Pat McCann, and Mark Bennett

Glory be, I fall off the blawg-wagon for a month or so and Bennett goes and gets himself messed up in public access television. Watch your back Charlie Rose. More to come.

Harris County Criminal Lawyers’ Association’s Reasonable Doubt television show with Todd Dupont, Pat McCann, and Mark Bennett. Discussing Houston, Harris County, Texas criminal justice issues, including the moral collapse of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Call for Harris County Public Defender’s Office

There seems to be a growing movement in Harris County to creating a local public defender’s office. As many Houstonians would be surprised to discover, despite, well… voting for the people they do, Harris County has no public defender office. While Houston has a federal public defender office, there is no state or county counterpart such as exists in the well known public defender’s office in Cook County Illinois (Chicago) (See Kevin Davis’ Defending the Damned) or Brooklyn Defender Services popularized by David Feige’s Indefensible. Despite an illustrious tradition of great criminal defense attorneys – perhaps even because of it, I suppose – Houston has seen fit to rely on court appointments to satisfy its constitutional obligation to provide legal representation to the poor.

I first heard this mentioned at an HCCLA meeting, by criminal defense attorneys who in economic terms stand something to lose by championing such a proposal, but nevertheless see the overarching benefits of a cohesive organization to provide an adequate defense to those who need it most.

As Lisa Falkenburg noted in her opinion piece An idea whose time has come? -

Patrick McCann, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, the county’s largest defense bar, recently took a poll and the group’s attorneys came out 2-to-1 in support of some kind of public defender office.

I don’t have the benefit of long experience to know whether this is just hope springing eternal or this overdue notion actually has a shot at becoming reality; those I’ve spoken to about it who do have that long experience are… well, they’re not counting their chickens.

But there is some support, perhaps more than we think. State Senator Rodney Ellis and Innocence Project director Barry Scheck marshall the usual arguments in support-

From our crime lab to the prosecutor’s office to indigent defense, Houston and Harris County have deservingly received national ridicule for practices leading to the conviction of the innocent. It’s time we took the necessary steps to repair our broken system. An independent public defender office is the best place to start.

Public defender programs are widely considered the most cost-effective way to deliver quality indigent defense services, which is why the federal government and every major urban area in the country — except Harris County — uses a public defender system.

Will we have ears to hear? That’s the question.

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