The Mississippi Supreme Court Moved to Ensure Poor Criminal Defendants Would Always Have a Lawyer. It’s Not Working.
Months after the state’s highest court directed judges to ensure that all criminal defendants have legal representation while awaiting indictment, one justice has acknowledged that the rule isn’t being widely followed.
Six years ago, the Mississippi Supreme Court told judges around the state to file plans showing how they meet their obligations to poor defendants. This summer, amid increased scrutiny of public defense in the state, the first one was filed.
A rule requiring poor criminal defendants to have a lawyer throughout the criminal process took effect Saturday. Few courts in the state have plans in place.
A joint investigation found that many Mississippi courts thwart public scrutiny of search warrants. Experts say that violates long-standing norms of public access and the state’s public records law.
Some Are Jailed in Mississippi for Months Without a Lawyer. The State Supreme Court Just Barred That.
Criminal justice reformers have long complained that the state’s rules on appointing public defenders leave poor defendants without a lawyer as they wait to be indicted.
The judge has signed a number of no-knock search warrants that have been challenged in court, but they weren’t on file at the clerk’s office.
No-knock warrants authorize police to burst into someone’s home unannounced. Search warrants are supposed to be filed at the courthouse, but they’re missing from many of Mississippi’s justice courts.