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By LINDA R. MONK | July 2, 1993
Rockville. -- Laura Houghteling was murdered last October about a mile from my house. Her body was found the other day about a half-mile from here. Laura's death has shaken this quiet suburban community on the border between Bethesda and Rockville. For weeks after the young Bethesda woman disappeared, I compulsively double-checked the locks on my doors and windows. Now that Laura's murderer has confessed in open court, I find myself even more troubled by how the Montgomery County police handled the case.
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NEWS
By Tricia Bishop and Tricia Bishop , tricia.bishop@baltsun.com | December 9, 2009
A state oversight panel has hired a new Maryland public defender, four months after firing the previous agency head, who had refused to implement cutbacks and other organizational changes. Montgomery County Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe, 61, was named as state public defender Tuesday morning, appointed by the three-member Board of Trustees. He will oversee a division with 1,000 employees, including 400 lawyers charged with representing Maryland's indigent defendants, which means - in these recessionary times - that his caseload grows as his budget shrinks.
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NEWS
By Annie Linskey and Annie Linskey,sun reporter | January 13, 2007
Over objections from the Baltimore state's attorney's office, a District Court judge ordered yesterday that public defenders may have access to the man charged with killing a city police officer Tuesday. The suspect, Brandon Grimes, 21, was wounded in the leg in a shootout with the officer and has been under police guard at St. Agnes Hospital. Police charged him Tuesday with first-degree murder, assault and two handgun violations but have not yet served the arrest warrant. His mother said that she has not been able to see him and that the hospital would not give her basic information about his condition.
NEWS
September 1, 2009
The state oversight board that governs Maryland's public defender's office may be able to avoid answering questions about its sudden firing of the agency's head, Nancy S. Forster, by hiding behind the state law protecting personnel decisions from public disclosure. But that does not absolve it of the duty to inform the public about its intentions for a vital agency that ensures the fairness and equity of our criminal justice system. The only hints we have about what led two of the three board members to fire Ms. Forster come from a memo written by Ms. Forster listing changes she says they wanted in the department, including the disbanding of the capital defense and juvenile protection departments of the office; closing a community defenders operation; outsourcing Child in Need of Assistance representation to private attorneys; and firing the Baltimore County public defender, Thelma Triplin.
NEWS
September 1, 2009
The state oversight board that governs Maryland's public defender's office may be able to avoid answering questions about its sudden firing of the agency's head, Nancy S. Forster, by hiding behind the state law protecting personnel decisions from public disclosure. But that does not absolve it of the duty to inform the public about its intentions for a vital agency that ensures the fairness and equity of our criminal justice system. The only hints we have about what led two of the three board members to fire Ms. Forster come from a memo written by Ms. Forster listing changes she says they wanted in the department, including the disbanding of the capital defense and juvenile protection departments of the office; closing a community defenders operation; outsourcing Child in Need of Assistance representation to private attorneys; and firing the Baltimore County public defender, Thelma Triplin.
NEWS
By Laurie Willis and Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF | April 3, 2002
Despite promises from state lawmakers to budget money for 10 new lawyers for his office, Public Defender Stephen E. Harris said yesterday his staff will continue to refuse new clients - until the attorneys are on board. Public defenders began refusing new cases March 22, when four people were turned away for assistance - action that followed a warning by Harris that unless his office receives $1.8 million from the state to hire 16 additional attorneys, new clients were in jeopardy of not getting assistance.
NEWS
November 3, 2004
WHY DID THE public defender's office ask the court to free its clients imprisoned at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center? Here's why: An ill-designed child storage wing, a grievously persistent shortage of adults to oversee these temporary wards of the state, a grim inability of the Department of Juvenile Services and its bosses to treat their latest powder keg as a crisis. A public so numbed by persistent -- quarterly -- reports of violence and ill-treatment at its holding tanks for youths in trouble that even when the federal Department of Justice says Maryland's big detention centers don't meet even minimum constitutional standards, and violate the civil rights of those confined there, much of the state seems to shrug.
NEWS
September 30, 1991
It is a basic tenant of American law that people accused of crimes have right to a fair trial, and for over a generation the courts have interpreted that to mean that anyone too poor to hire a private lawyer is entitled to free legal counsel at state expense.Thus it would be a serious matter, as a result of proposed budget cuts, if the Maryland public defender's office were unable to carry out its mission of representing indigent clients. The cuts, part of Governor Schaefer's plan to close an estimated $450 million budget gap, would reduce the budget of the public defender's office by about $589,000 next year.
NEWS
By Caitlin Francke and Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF | October 22, 1998
Fearful that some criminal charges may be dismissed, Baltimore court officials have designed a stop-gap plan to ensure that defendants facing felony drug charges have attorneys to represent them in court.Under the plan, formally announced yesterday, some of the 350 indigent defendants who have been denied attorneys because the Office of the Public Defender does not have the staff to represent them will be brought back into court between Nov. 2 and 24.A public defender will represent them and negotiate plea agreements or set trial dates, said Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph P. McCurdy.
NEWS
By GREG GARLAND and GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER | December 14, 2005
State juvenile services officials agreed yesterday to offer more educational programs at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, beginning next week. The step came after a Baltimore judge summoned them to a 2 1/2 -hour, closed-door meeting to address complaints that young offenders held in the state-run juvenile jail have not been getting their usual classroom instruction since Dec. 5. Deputy Juvenile Services Secretary Steve Moyer said youths have been getting adequate education services.
NEWS
By Melissa Harris and Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com | October 9, 2008
Baltimore judges will take over the job of appointing private attorneys to represent poor defendants when the public defender's office can't, the city's chief district judge announced yesterday at a meeting of criminal justice officials. In more than 2,300 city cases last year, the public defender's office hired private counsel because it couldn't represent more than one defendant in a case. But budget cuts have forced State Public Defender Nancy Forster to stop hiring so-called "panel attorneys."
NEWS
By Melissa Harris and Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com | September 26, 2008
The state's chief judge is working on a way to ensure that poor defendants have lawyers now that budget cuts have forced the Maryland Office of the Public Defender to stop paying private attorneys to represent clients that the office can't. The public defender's office frequently calls on private counsel because it can't represent more than one defendant in a criminal case or a jailhouse informant testifying against one of its clients. Last year, more than 2,700 indigent defendants in Baltimore were represented by private attorneys under those circumstances, according to the public defender's office.
NEWS
By Annie Linskey and Annie Linskey,sun reporter | January 13, 2007
Over objections from the Baltimore state's attorney's office, a District Court judge ordered yesterday that public defenders may have access to the man charged with killing a city police officer Tuesday. The suspect, Brandon Grimes, 21, was wounded in the leg in a shootout with the officer and has been under police guard at St. Agnes Hospital. Police charged him Tuesday with first-degree murder, assault and two handgun violations but have not yet served the arrest warrant. His mother said that she has not been able to see him and that the hospital would not give her basic information about his condition.
NEWS
By Brent Jones and Brent Jones,ok sun reporter | September 16, 2006
Public defender drops suit after fixes in Central Booking processing The public defender's office dropped its lawsuit against the state-run prison system yesterday, saying it was satisfied with progress in ending overcrowding at the Central Booking and Intake Center that had routinely kept detainees jailed longer than legally allowed. Only four people in the past nine months have been kept at the processing center for more than 24 hours without seeing a lawyer or having a bail hearing, a marked improvement from 18 months ago when as many as 84 detainees a day were being held for too long without seeing a judge or court commissioner.
NEWS
By GREG GARLAND and GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER | December 14, 2005
State juvenile services officials agreed yesterday to offer more educational programs at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, beginning next week. The step came after a Baltimore judge summoned them to a 2 1/2 -hour, closed-door meeting to address complaints that young offenders held in the state-run juvenile jail have not been getting their usual classroom instruction since Dec. 5. Deputy Juvenile Services Secretary Steve Moyer said youths have been getting adequate education services.
NEWS
November 3, 2004
WHY DID THE public defender's office ask the court to free its clients imprisoned at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center? Here's why: An ill-designed child storage wing, a grievously persistent shortage of adults to oversee these temporary wards of the state, a grim inability of the Department of Juvenile Services and its bosses to treat their latest powder keg as a crisis. A public so numbed by persistent -- quarterly -- reports of violence and ill-treatment at its holding tanks for youths in trouble that even when the federal Department of Justice says Maryland's big detention centers don't meet even minimum constitutional standards, and violate the civil rights of those confined there, much of the state seems to shrug.
NEWS
By Caitlin Francke and Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF | October 15, 1998
It's Wednesday morning, and Andre N. Cooper is in Baltimore Circuit Court facing 20 years in prison for felony drug charges. Prosecutors offer him a plea bargain that would keep him out of jail.He needs to think about it, he says. Where does the 30-year-old cook turn to mull his future?To his mother. There's no one else. He has no attorney and no hope of getting one soon.Cooper is one of 350 people charged with felony crimes in Baltimore that the Office of Public Defender -- which provides attorneys for the poor -- says it can't help.
NEWS
By Caitlin Francke and Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF | April 12, 2001
As Baltimore prosecutors welcomed an infusion of state funds to expand two violent crime units, the city's public defender worried that additional cases will swamp her lawyers - possibly causing trial delays. "It is a no-brainer that if you add prosecutors, you need to add public defenders," said District Public Defender Elizabeth L. Julian. "Are we supposed to split ourselves in half?" Julian and her boss, State Public Defender Stephen E. Harris, asked the state legislature for five new lawyers for Baltimore's office this year to keep up with increased prosecutions of violent crimes.
NEWS
By Ivan Penn and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF | February 20, 2004
Maryland Public Defender Stephen E. Harris will retire from the post May 1, prompting a nationwide search for the state's third defense chief in more than 30 years, officials said yesterday. Harris, 66, a one-time boss of the state's first lady, Kendel Ehrlich, and who has run the public defender's office since September 1990, leaves the post on the heels of an American Bar Association report in the fall that criticized the state's system for defending juveniles. Although the report did not blame Harris' administration, it pointed to numerous problems with public defenders in juvenile cases, including a lack of preparation and failure to provide representation throughout the legal process.
NEWS
By Stephanie Tracy and Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF | October 23, 2003
Employees and clients of the public defender's office for Anne Arundel County may have to allow for more travel time between the courthouse and the office if it moves to a new location next year as proposed. The move, designed to cut costs, would relocate the Annapolis office from 60 West St. to 1700 Margaret Ave., a building west of downtown that also houses the Legion Avenue post office. The public defender's current lease is set to expire early next year. Because of continuing negotiations between the property manager and the state Department of General Services, information on specific savings was not available, said the department's spokesman, Dyer Bell.
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