Systematic Failure: New Report Profiles 13 Michigan Residents in Indictment of State's System of providing Public Defense Services for the Poor

13 people. 13 stories. 13 tragic, expensive and preventable examples of Michigan's failing public defense systems.

This month, at news conferences in Detroit and Lansing, the Michigan Campaign for Justice, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Michigan released Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems: Portraits of Michigan's Constitutional Crisis, a report documenting Michigan's failure to ensure that public defense attorneys have the tools they need to provide constitutionally adequate legal representation and the devastating impact of this failure on the lives of 13 public defense clients.

"Under the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the indigent have a right to the effective assistance of competent defense counsel. In violation of national standards, Michigan does not provide its public defense attorneys with the investigators, experts, training, supervision, compensation and type of workloads that they need to meet this responsibility," said Robin Dahlberg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "The stories in this report are about the lives of real people that were tragically changed forever because Michigan's public defense systems failed them."

Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems: Portraits of Michigan's Constitutional Crisis offers researched accounts of people accused of crimes across Michigan – people who were unable to afford an attorney, inadequately represented in court, imprisoned and later exonerated or who are awaiting exoneration.

Several men profiled in the report attended the Detroit and Lansing news conferences and shared their tragic stories, including Edward George Carter, David Tucker and Davien Woods.

In 1975, 19 year-old Edward George Carter was convicted of armed rape and robbery after a bench trial that that lasted no more than a few hours. His attorney, a recent law school graduate, did not have the time or the funds to investigate the charges against him, to ask for or analyze fingerprints found at the scene and to interview Mr. Carter's alibi witnesses. Mr. Carter spent 35 years in prison before a fingerprint analysis revealed that he was not the perpetrator.

In 1990, 21-year old David Tucker was convicted after a 45-minute trial for charges of assaulting his manager at work. Struggling under a burdensome workload, his attorney assumed incorrectly that the victim would not testify and did not prepare for the trial.

Tucker spent six years in prison before a federal court vacated his conviction, set him free and all charges were dropped.

And in 2002, 18-year old Davien Woods was convicted of carjacking, armed robbery and felony possession of a firearm. Although another youth involved in the carjacking had identified the true perpetrator, Woods' attorney had neither the time nor the funds to locate this individual. Woods spent two years in prison before a Michigan court found that his trial attorney had "unequivocally" provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

"This report tells a story of a state in constitutional crisis," said Elizabeth Arnovits, president of the Campaign for Justice. "The rights and responsibilities set within the U.S. Constitution cannot be set aside, even when times are tough. In fact, the 13 stories in this report alone cost taxpayers in Michigan $13 million and these are just the tip of the iceberg. This is exactly the time leaders should look to the Constitution in order to, reform the system and work to provide resources to uphold the basic rights of everyone in Michigan."