Defense attorneys for Georgia capital defendant Jamie Weis have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state from seeking the death penalty because state prosecutors hand picked the public defenders assigned to the case and because the case has languished for years without adequate representation. Prosecutors announced in August 2006 that they would seek the death penalty against Weis. By March of the next year, the state ran out of money to pay Mr. Weis’ attorneys. The prosecutors then asked the judge to appoint two overworked public defenders instead, identifying them by name. Against the wishes of the defendant, the judge granted their request, resulting in the new lawyers filing three motions to withdraw citing their lack of experience, time, or money to pay experts or investigators. Finally, after years of lost time that the attorneys could have spent working on Weis’ defense, the state agreed to reinstate Weis’ original attorneys on the eve of the trial. Prosecutors had spent those years steadily building their case while the defense lost leads and witnesses went missing or died. The defense maintains that such a lack of adequate defense for so many years is unconstitutional.

The former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Norman Fletcher, asked, “Why should the district attorney be involved in deciding who will represent people?” The Chief Justice observed, “We’re in trouble in Georgia.” The Georgia Supreme Court has allowed Weis’ prosecution to continue, but 3 members dissented, stating, “The bottom line here is that the state should not be allowed to fully arm its prosecutors while it hamstrings the defense and blames defendant for any resultant delay.”

(A. Liptak, “Defendants Squeezed by Georgia’s Tight Budget,” N.Y. Times, July 5, 2010). See Costs and Representation.