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Due to understaffing and a high workload, an innocent 22 year old man spent 13 months in the Jackson county jail. After they had finally found the time to take a look at his file, the public defender quickly realized that the young man couldn’t even have committed the crime. They dropped the charges and released him.
Ms Ruth Petsch, head of the Kansas City public defender’s office, had to admit that this situation wasn’t even exceptional.
Her 34 attorneys are so swamped that she received a notice from the Missouri supreme court just last month warning her that the department could lose its law license if they don’t provide the required level of representation to their clients.
Judge John Terrence of the Jackson County Circuit Court explains that Ms Petch’s office is simply not working realistically. Upon her arrival 5 years ago, she saw that most of her team were clearing cases in what she called “plea factories,” aka finding an agreeable deal for both parties rather than going to trial.
She changed this into making them work every case down to the last detail and, Judge Terrence says, this has slowed down the system considerably: “In a perfect world, it would be lovely if everybody could handle a charge like wealthy people do.” But this is unrealistic, the Missouri legislature is “never going to say, ‘Let’s do this the way O.J. Simpson was represented.’ ’’
When asked about the unnamed 22-year-old who spent a year in jail being innocent, Judge Torrence said, “I know about that case. That case is an atrocity; it should never have been filed.”
The case should indeed never been filed because 23 seconds after the robbery victim called 911, the innocent young man was filmed a six minute walk away from there (making him thus faster than the current world record holder running). He ran away from the police simply because he had stolen a soda from a convenience store.
Ms Petsch said the unfortunate incident was “a 4-cent loss to QuikTrip,” which translated into a year’s loss of the young man’s life.