The Hoosier State is the latest to be subject to a rigorous study of its indigent defense system — and the latest state shown to come up short. A new study from the Sixth Amendment Center finds that Indiana . . .
- Has no system to ensure indigent defense for misdemeanors in state, city or county courts.
- In 37 of the state’s 92 counties, there’s no mechanism to ensure adequate indigent defense in felony cases and juvenile cases, both at trial and on direct appeal.
- If it were run properly, the state actually has a decent system for indigent defense. But participation is voluntary, and the aforementioned 37 counties chose not to participate.
- The “if it were run properly” catch is also a problem. The state has lagged on funding for the program, and just two full-time staffers oversee the 300+ city, county, state and appellate courts in the participating counties.
- The state also has a reimbursement system for capital cases, but participation among the counties is, again, inconsistent.
- The study found that at the local level, many jurisdictions in Indiana encourage defendants to negotiate directly with prosecutors before they’re granted a public defender.
- The attorneys in the public defender system are have varying degrees of experience and qualifications, and the system lacks the resources to provide supervision and enforce training standards.
- As in many jurisdictions, the study found that Indiana public defenders are overworked and spend an inadequate amount of time preparing for individual cases.