When I read the headline on a recent front page of The Sun News - “Taxpayers to foot the bill for gang members, others facing trafficking charges” - I was left with the impression that the author felt people charged with a horrible crime should not be provided with legal counsel if they cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
The 25 defendants in this case may or may not be guilty of all or some of the alleged crimes. In any event, why should a rich defendant be entitled to legal counsel and a poor defendant deprived of an attorney?
As the article points out, those indigent defendants are entitled to up to $10,000 in attorney fees. The cost of lodging a prisoner in federal prison is $30,000 per year. So even if you don’t care if an innocent person goes to jail because they can’t afford a lawyer, why are you are willing to spend $750,000 in taxpayer money to keep that person in jail?
All but one of the defendants was given private attorneys because it is a conflict of interest for a lawyer to represent multiple clients facing the same charges. This concept is also helpful to the prosecution since the best strategy for some defendants is to testify against co-defendants to avoid prison or receive lighter sentences.
Pete Wade, Myrtle Beach