As a citizen of In the United States, we expect that if we were ever charged for a crime that we would have legal presentation. This right to counsel is viewed as a fundamental right in today’s society. Whether paid out of our own pocket or provided to us by the system, we can have confidence that our rights would be fought for.
But, what if that was not the case?
Edward Carter was charged and convicted for a crime he never committed. Moreover, Carter served 35 years for some else’s crime. Edward Carter was 19 years old when charged with assaulting a pregnant woman in a University bathroom. Carter had been assigned a lawyer because he could not afford one. The lawyer encouraged Carter to take the plea deal, however, Carter refused advocating his innocence. The lawyer met with him twice before the trial.
Carter proved his innocence 35 years later with a report that showed that he was already in custody at the time of the attack. An article by NPR quoted Carter as stating:
“That’s the same day the crime happened. How do I be in two places at the same time? It’s highly impossible for a person to be in two places at the same time.”
Mike Steinburg of the American Civil Liberties is suing the State of Michigan for not providing the poor with adequate legal representation. NPR identifies a couple of reasons why this is happening:
- These lawyers are given “400 indigent cases a year, there is simply no way that you can adequately investigate and prepare all of them”. -David Moran, University of Michigan Law School.
- Defense lawyers in the Michigan are not paid enough to make a living.
This is not the first time this situation has come up either. Since the 1980s alone, independent groups have called Michigan to change the way they pay their lawyers for the poor 5 separate times.
No matter how much money you have, each and every person deserves the right to have quality representation in court. Going to prison for a crime you did not commit is a punishment no one deserves.