In 1997, Ricky Kidd was sentenced to life without parole for a double homicide he says he didn’t commit. And he says his court-appointed lawyer is the reason. In the U.S. justice system, everyone has the right to an attorney, even if you can’t afford one. But what happens when your lawyer is overworked, underfunded and unable to do their job? From the PBS NewsHour, a look inside Missouri’s public defender system at a crisis point and what it means for serving justice in America.
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In 1997, Ricky Kidd was sentenced to life without parole for a double homicide he says he didn't commit. And he says his court-appointed lawyer is the reason. In the U.S. justice system, everyone has the right to an attorney, even if you can't afford one. But what happens when your lawyer is overworked, underfunded and unable to do their job? From the PBS NewsHour, a look inside Missouri's public defender system at a crisis point and what it means for serving justice in America.
After 23 years behind bars, and a crushing defeat in 2009, Ricky Kidd finally gets a new day in court. Plus, we take a look inside a new St. Louis County prosecutor's campaign to uproot the process that fuels the overload on public defenders. Could changing the way crimes are prosecuted be the answer to the public defense crisis? If you have questions for us or Ricky, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The most common tool used to attack problems in public defender systems is the class action lawsuit. But what if there's a better strategy? Steve Hanlon, a longtime advocate for systemic legal reform, has a big idea about big data. This is the story of how his data changed things for public defenders in Missouri, and ultimately led to a state-wide showdown with the governor.
The American justice system is based around the idea that you can get to the truth when two opposing sides make their cases in court. But what happens if your defense attorney is so overloaded they can't handle the case that could cost you your freedom? What happens when the most important testimony goes unheard, or when the evidence that could prove your innocence goes unseen? These failures aren't hypothetical. They happen all the time. They happened to Ricky Kidd.
Americans didn't always have the right to an attorney. It all started with a pool hall robbery in Florida, and an unlikely legal advocate: a poor drifter named Clarence Earl Gideon. Gideon brought the fight for free counsel to the Supreme Court 50 years ago -- and won. But all these years later, the promise of Gideon goes unfulfilled everyday. This is the story of how we built the public defender system and how we broke it. And what happened when Ricky Kidd was charged with murder in 1997 and was forced to rely on this broken system.
Can an attorney handle more than 100 criminal cases at a time? That's the reality for a public defender like Jeff Esparza, who represents defendants unable to afford their own lawyers in Kansas City. The public defender system in Missouri--and across the nation--is underfunded, understaffed and overworked. Attorneys say their clients are slipping through the cracks. The system fails people like Kevin Shepard, who sat in jail for months before ever meeting his overworked public
Ricky Kidd is finally free -- thanks to his pro bono legal team, led by law professor Sean O'Brien. In this bonus episode, Ricky and Sean tell us about adjusting to life after prison and we talk through some loose ends from the case. Also, we ask Ricky what gives him hope for reform in the criminal justice system.