What can you do with a drunken lawyer? Last night Georgia executed Robert Wayne Holsey, a man of questionable intellectual capacity convicted for killing a sheriff’s deputy in 1995 — despite the fact that his court-appointed lawyer failed miserably in his defense and admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka in the evenings while trying the case.
Ken Armstrong of The Marshall Project discusses the sad truth in response to his own question — “What Can You Do With a Drunken Lawyer” — that very few defendants get a new trial due to their attorney’s incapacity.
One reason is the test that courts use to evaluate such claims. A defendant must show not only that his lawyer was incompetent, but that the trial’s outcome would likely have been different had the attorney been more capable (and sober). This second prong has been used to defeat so many claims of ineffective assistance of counsel that some practitioners consider the whole exercise virtually pointless. One attorney put it this way: “We just simply put a mirror under the lawyer’s nose, and if it clouds up, that’s effective assistance of counsel.”
You can send a kid to Harvard for what it cost to keep him incarcerated. Also at the Marshall Project is a report out by the Justice Policy Institute on the costs of jailing youth offenders entitled “Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration.”
“We could send a [juvenile justice youth] to Harvard for [what we pay for incarceration] and we don’t get very good outcomes,” one state family service director said in the report.
The price tag for confinement in North Carolina, according to the report? Up to $437.67 per day for one juvenile — or $39,390 for three months; $78,781 for six months; and $159,750 for a year.
The mysterious case of Bobby Chen. In early November, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case brought by a man — acting as his own attorney — who had sued the city of Baltimore for allegedly razing his row house to hide damage caused by the city’s demolition of a house next door. As the Wall Street Journal reports here, Bobby Chen asked the court to address his inability to get court extensions of time because of difficulties serving papers on city officials.
Mr. Chen filed his petition to the Supreme Court in March. Parts of it were hand written. His grammar was often incorrect. And he made a motion to submit the case without paying the court’s $300 filing fee because he said he had virtually no money. Despite incredibly long odds, his appeal caught the court’s eye. The justices announced on Nov. 7 that they would hear Mr. Chen’s case.
The problem now? Nobody can find Mr. Chen — who has until Dec. 22 to file his opening brief.