In most places in the U.S., if a parent is charged with abuse or neglect of a child and can't afford a lawyer, he's appointed one. That lawyer's job is to defend the parent and reunite the family if possible. But faced with a budget shortfall, New Hampshire has taken the unusual step of eliminating that funding. ...This is crazy. Lawyers will not solve the problem. There is very little law involved. If the system is somehow rigged to make lawyers necessary, then they should fix the system.
Parents who are unable to adequately defend themselves make state attorney Peter Brunette's job — arguing against the parents — easier. But he doesn't feel good about it.
"It's like shooting fish in a barrel sometimes. And it's not fun," Brunette says. "Without a lawyer, there's no way they can navigate this system in a way that ensures that their rights are being adequately protected. That's the problem we are all struggling with right now."
"One of the topics that we are going to go through today is making sure you have an understanding of what the potential consequences of this type of case are to your parental rights and responsibilities," she tells the man, whose name has been withheld because the case is sealed.One reason the judges like the defendant to have a lawyer is so that the judge will not have to explain "the potential consequences of this type of case". The judge can just presume that the lawyer explains it. Of course no one really explains it, but it gets the judge off the hook.
"If the court made a decision that your parental rights should be terminated, it would be at that point [that] you would no longer have any legal rights, duties or obligations," she says. "Do you understand that's a potential consequence to this type of a case?"
A couple of days ago, NPR also reported:
A senior pathologist in the Los Angeles County coroner's office has sharply questioned the forensic evidence used to convict a 51-year-old woman of shaking her 7-week-old grandson to death, identifying a host of flaws in the case.There is not much a defense lawyer can do, when the prosecution can get away with bogus expert testimony that frames the defendant.
The new report by the pathologist, James Ribe, details eight "diagnostic problems" with the coroner's 1996 ruling that the child had died from violent shaking or a forceful blow to the head. Ribe wrote that he saw little evidence that the infant had been attacked, noting "the complete absence of bodily trauma, such as face trauma, grab marks, bruises, rib fractures or neck trauma."
Shirley Ree Smith was convicted of felony child endangerment — a charge equivalent to second degree murder — in the case, and she's garnered national attention over the course of a long legal campaign to clear her name. Smith insists that she never harmed the infant, Etzel Glass, who died in an apartment in Van Nuys, Calif.