18th September, 2009

SCHR Argues That Denial of Counsel for Over Two Years In Death Penalty Case Prevents Fair Trial

On November 10, 2009, SCHR President and Senior Counsel Stephen B. Bright presented arguments to the Georgia Supreme Court on behalf of Jamie Weis, a mentally ill man who was denied funding for legal representation to represent him in his capital case for over two years.

During the time he was without counsel, Mr. Weis made three suicide attempts and repeatedly asked both his lawyers and the prosecutors to be allowed to give up and receive the death penalty.  The appeal asks that the case – or at least the death penalty – be dismissed on speedy trial grounds because of the delay that resulted from the denial of counsel.  The case is an example of the breakdown of Georgia’s indigent defense programs with regard to capital cases.  Similar failures to fund representation for periods of two or three years have occurred in other cases in which people face the death penalty.

Below are the briefs presented to the Georgia Supreme Court. To watch the argument online, click here for Steve Bright's presentation and click here for the State's argument. SCHR also submitted a letter brief following the oral arguemnt which can be read here; here is the State's reply.