Committee recommends independent body help capital defendants obtain counsel

The state legislature’s death penalty study committee voted today to create an independent body that will help defendants in capital cases find a good lawyer.

The appointing authority would make sure only qualified lawyers try capital cases, and that they’re paid enough for their services.

State Senator Doug Jackson, who co-chairs the study committee, says creating the independent body would cost two to three million dollars. But if successful, it could save the state money. He says nothing is more expensive than bad defense lawyers in a capital case.

“Because those cases receive a tremendous amount of review on appeal. And the result is delay and retrials and a lot of money going to defense services that otherwise could be avoided by a good trial on the front end.”

The committee’s recommendation goes now to the General Assembly. While that effectively ends the year-long study session, the group also voted to recommend the state legislature create another study committee on mental illness and the death penalty.


Jackson says some might mistake the recommended body for an attempt to undermine capital punishment.

“It’s just the opposite. … Having the very best defense attorneys representing the defendent in capital cases is the best way to get a good trial, a good conviction.”

Jackson says that helps to avoid delay on appeal and possible retrial.

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