Advocates: Texas Indigent Defense Nearing Crisis

Texas is reaching a crisis point, putting itself at risk of a civil rights lawsuit — or worse, a total meltdown of the criminal justice system — because it so severely shortchanges the system designed to ensure impoverished accused criminals get adequate legal representation, advocates told a Senate committee last week.

“We are facing a real crossroads in indigent defense because of money,” Jeff Blackburn, general counsel for the Texas Innocence Project, told members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “The money in these counties is going to start running out.”

Nine years ago, before Texas adopted the Fair Defense Act, the ...

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