• A federal judge in Rome has barred the city of Calhoun from detaining indigent defendants in misdemeanor or minor traffic cases in jail for as long as a week simply because they cannot afford a cash bond.

    The injunction by U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy labeled as unconstitutional the city's practice of jailing indigent defendants accused of city ordinance violations and other misdemeanors who cannot raise enough money to pay preset cash bonds. The city routinely releases defendants who are awaiting adjudication of misdemeanor charges and have enough cash to post bond.

  • On the eve of the next execution, a look at the state’s history of bad lawyering and faulty evidence.

  • A South Georgia probation company accused in a lawsuit of wrongfully detaining poor people will be closing its operation next month.

    Red Hills Community Probation, which handles misdemeanor probation supervision for five small courts, informed state regulators that it will close in June, according to emails obtained Wednesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    The company’s decision came as the County and Municipal Probation Advisory Council (CMPAC), which regulates probation providers, was in the midst of a compliance review of Red Hills.

  • Success of Georgia probation reforms depends on changes from the bench

    When Adel Edwards appeared before Judge Joshua Bell in a tiny municipal court in rural Georgia, it was hardly the crime of the century. Edwards was accused of burning leaves in his yard without a permit. But the judge didn’t treat the matter lightly. He ordered Edwards, who is disabled and lives on food stamps, to pay a $500 fine, spend 12 months on probation and pay a private probation company another $44 a month to “supervise” him.

  • The U.S. Justice Department on Friday stepped into ongoing litigation to express concern about legal representation for juveniles in a South Georgia judicial circuit.

    The agency’s civil rights division, in a 22-page court filing, told a Fulton County judge he should find the constitutional rights of juvenile defendants are being violated if necessary legal safeguards are not in place.

  • Just 12 years ago, Georgia’s indigent defense system was a national embarrassment. Defendants languished in jails for months at a time without ever seeing a lawyer. At many courthouses, assembly-line justice was the norm, with lawyers meeting their clients just a few minutes before entering guilty pleas.

  • Vera Cheeks, of Bainbridge, received a $135 for rolling through a stop sign. Going on probation gave her time to pay, but money was so tight that she was unable to make an immediate payment of $50. Her fiancé resorted to pawning Cheeks’ engagement ring and a Weed Eater so she could leave the building. “It just broke my heart,” Cheeks said.

    Vera Cheeks was hoping for mercy when she appeared in court for rolling through a stop sign.

    What she got was probation: Georgia’s high-cost solution for people who can’t immediately pay a traffic fine.

  • Court papers filed in dispute allege sexual harassment by interim PD

    Officials in charge of filling the vacant circuit public defender position in Cordele are extending the application deadline, ending a dispute in which critics called the hiring process a sham.

    The decision to advertise the position more widely and give interested attorneys another 30 days to apply renders moot the Southern Center for Human Rights' request that a judge order a similar result.

  • At its troubled Cordele office in South Georgia, the state public defenders system has replaced a lawyer accused of incompetence with one accused of sexual harassment, according to court filings.

  • The hiring of a circuit public defender in Cordele remains on hold as both sides to a lawsuit related to problems within that office have agreed to ask the court for more time to file briefs.

    Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle last week granted the Southern Center for Humans Rights' request for a temporary restraining order stopping the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council from filling the vacancy. The Southern Center represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in January alleging poor representation of indigent adults and teens charged with crimes.