Monday, January 14, 2013
Summerville Town Council gave contingent approval to hiring a public defender for its municipal court Wednesday.
That approval hinges on the county agreeing to pay for the position, however. If the county doesn’t agree, council will have to consider whether it will provide the funding. ?The 6-0 vote came after Kelly Lax spoke during the public comment period to encourage council to hire a public defender and to better train employees to be civil to the public.
Lax said her son was arrested by Summerville police Oct. 5. Despite the police officer’s Miranda warning that an attorney would be provided if he couldn’t afford one, he couldn’t get one, she said.
She and her husband intervened, but were stymied as well. Her son finally got a public defender assigned Nov. 13, she said, but as of Dec. 5 his files still hadn’t been transferred.
“My son may be (found) guilty,” she said. “But he has spent the last 70 days in a holding cell. … He’s been outside twice.”
She asked the town to do the right thing and ensure defendants have representation. She also asked that employees be reminded that the people trying to help their family members who have made bad decisions are not the bad guys.
Councilman Walter Bailey, chairman of the public safety committee, reiterated his point from Monday’s meeting that the criminal justice system is a state and county responsibility and that the town does the county a favor by having a municipal court that takes some of the load off the magistrate court, so the county should fund a public defender.