The Georgia Supreme Court ruled on March 25 that the capital prosecution of Jamie Ryan Weis could proceed despite the defendant’s claims that a lack of state funding for capital defense has deprived him of effective representation and a speedy trial. Weis, who was arrested 4 years ago, was first appointed two defense lawyers with death penalty experience but the agency that funds defense lawyers in capital cases could not pay them. They were replaced by salaried public defenders who subsequently asked to withdraw, saying that they did not have the time, funds or qualifications to pursue a death penalty case. Weis argued that he should have had the first legal team and would not work with the second. In the two years since the representation has bogged down, Weis’s mother, who was expected to testify on his behalf, passed away. The majority opinion said that much of the delay in the case was due to the defendant’s actions. Justice Hugh Thompson, dissenting with two other justices, wrote that the Constitution requires that Weis receive a “vigorous defense,” and that Georgia “cannot shirk this responsibility because it is experiencing budgetary constraints.” He wrote further, “The State should not be allowed to fully arm its prosecutors while it hamstrings the defense and blames defendant for any resultant delay.” Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, who is working on Weis’s appeal, said the public defenders “are so overwhelmed they can’t possibly represent Jamie Weis.”

(J. Schwartz, “Murder Case May Proceed in Georgia,” New York Times, March 25, 2010). See Representation and Costs. See also a video of the oral argument in the Georgia Supreme Court and link to the Court’s opinion.