Monday, June 2, 2014

Apparently in Waco, TX Everyone Wants a Public Defender!

So today I was looking around online for any national news regarding public defense and defense investigators. A few minutes into the search I got excited at finding an article titled "Investigator Making Dent in County's Indigent Defense Costs". Being my naive self, I assumed this article might tell of how a defense investigator could help a public defense office by finding information which could help resolutions happen faster.

No such luck, of course.

Much to my surprise, the article discusses the work of Detective Eric Carrizales who investigates requests for a court-appointed attorney. First of all, who are these people who would fraudulently request a public defender? In the culture at large, public defenders are berated and thought to be the bottom of the criminal defense barrel. Why would someone knowingly falsify their request to get an attorney they probably perceive as mediocre? Second, how is this detective being paid? Having a general idea of what police detectives earn, I doubt it's a small amount. Wouldn't it be better to just divert his salary to better funding court-appointed attorneys?

In any case, he is apparently making the people at the McLennan Indigent Defense Office very happy.

It makes me feel better to know that what Eric’s finding — the ones he’s going out and investigating — I’m making the right decision by appointing these folks an attorney,” Edwards said. “These folks really don’t have anything.”

Wow. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. How could it not?

The county isn't just benefiting from finding out fraudsters, who by the way potentially face a third degree felony charge for this awful transgression, they are also receiving less requests for an attorney. Why on earth would that be? Because defendants don't want a police officer coming to their home and asking them questions. What a surprise.

I'm curious about what happens if this detective shows up on someone's doorstep asking about their paperwork, is let in, and then the detective notices some crime going on and arrests them. Isn't it deceptive to have a detective show up asking about your paperwork requesting an attorney? Wouldn't the defendant assume that person would be okay to let into their home even though they absolutely should not do so?

Luckily they answer this question in the article. The detective's work has lead to several arrests, including twenty fugitives Carrizales says he located just by showing up on the defendants' doorsteps.

Yup, that is not misleading or unethical at all. The thinking represented in this article is rife with the "if you have nothing to hide, what's the problem" mindset and also devoid of critical thinking. Unfortunately the office of public defense in McLennan County seems to be similarly hindered. If the defendants there do not trust their attorneys, I don't think anyone could blame them.


  1. I got here from public defender's RSS feed. Adding you to my feeds. Just read your entire blog over coffee. Yes, every word. Just learned a lot. Thank you.

    1. Hi there, thanks for reading and thanks for letting me know you did. Educating people about the job of investigators in public defense is one of the goals of this blog so I'm really glad to hear you learned a lot. :D

  2. Have you seen what Public Defenders are paid, depending on conviction?
    They are paid by the state, win or lose!

  3. As they should be. The role of a public defender is to protect the rights of the defendant. Sometimes you can protect someone's right superbly and still end up with a jury finding them guilty. That is the reality of the adversarial system. Paying defenders by the win would create a toxic atmosphere.

  4. I came here searching for something else on Rakoff. I am from another country. I thought this country the laws are strictly followed and cops/judiciary corruption free and shocked to find out and experience the opposite of what one victim would expect... Still under shock....

    1. Yeah, I know many people from outside the US are surprised at the reality of our system. Sadly it is very unjust and mired down with institutional corruption. The more you stick around my blog and other criminal defense blogs, the more disillusioned you will be with our system.