Georgia Judge Allowed Prosecutors to Choose Defendant’s Lawyers

Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Judge Johnnie L. Caldwell

When the state of Georgia ran out of money to pay for an accused individual’s legal defense, a local judge allowed the prosecutor to choose the public defenders who would represent the man facing the death penalty. To make matters worse, the defense lawyers who were selected already had too many cases to handle and did not want to take on another one. They explained that, “No person should face the death penalty unrepresented by adequate counsel simply because of a funding stalemate in Atlanta.”

When the case of Jamie Weis was brought before the state’s highest court, four of the seven justices of the Georgia Supreme Court saw no problem with how the defendant wound up with legal representation. In fact, the justices told Weis that he should have gone along with having a lawyer endorsed by the prosecutor because it would help the state through its fiscal problems.
Weis was charged with murdering an elderly woman during a home burglary in 2006. His case has yet to go to trial. In the meantime, the better-funded prosecution has gathered evidence, while the defense has been inactive. Weis is now appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judge who made the original decision, Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr. of Fayette County Superior Court, resigned in April 2010 after accusations surfaced that he had offered to rule in favor of a lawyer’s client if the lawyer would have sex with him.
- David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Defendants Squeezed by Georgia’s Tight Budget (by Adam Liptak, New York Times)
Weis v. The State (Supreme Court of Georgia) (pdf)


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