Did you know that Missouri has approximately 4,600 people on a wait list, about 200 of them are currently incarcerated.
The practice of systematically placing, or authorizing the placement of indigent criminal defendants on a waiting list deprives us of our right to counsel in violation of the Missouri Constitution. We contend that this practice has impacted and continues to impact us, we are innocent till proven guilty. Even those of us who are not in custody are harmed by this practice since the absence of counsel makes it virtually impossible for us to conduct any meaningful investigation or otherwise prepare a viable defense to the charges against us.
Missouri state public defenders offices are relied upon to provide defense services to all indigent defendants facing criminal charges in the state. The state's obligation to provide us counsel is grounded in the fundamental constitutional principles articulated in Gidon v Wainwright, 372 US 335 (1963) which held that the constitution requires every State to provide counsel for criminal defendants who are unable to afford an attorney.
This obligation is similarly grounded in the Missouri Constitution which guarantees all persons accused in criminal prosecutions the right to counsel, due process, and equal rights and opportunity under the law. Mo Const art 1, 18(a) establishing a right to counsel; Mo Const art 1, 10 guaranteeing due process protections; Mo Const art 1, 2 ensuring equality under the law.
We are being forced to navigate the court system on our own. We are unable to communicate with an attorney, review a complete discovery, identify or interview potential witnesses, gather evidence, or otherwise mount a viable defense to the charges against us.
Reliance on waiting lists constitutes outright denial of counsel to us the most vulnerable within the criminal legal system. Without intervention by the court, we feel that this practice will continue to destroy our lives and any semblance of integrity of criminal proceedings against us.
We are asking the court to immediately stop this practice by either appointing us counsel or dropping the charges against us with prejudice as we have not yet been provided counsel.