I celebrated my seventh anniversary with the Star on April 5 and the entire time I've been here I've heard attorneys argue over who makes the best attorney — those who are retained, contract attorneys or public/legal defenders.
In putting together my database for today's story on the resolution of murder cases, I included the defense attorneys' names and where they worked.
Here's what I discovered:
The public defender's office had eight clients plead guilty or guilty-except-insane to first-degree murder. One contract attorney and one retained attorney did the same. Most of the defendants were facing the death penalty.
The public defender's office had 17 people charged with first-degree murder plead guilty to second-degree murder. Contract attorneys had 10 such defendants do the same. Retained attorneys had three such clients.
Twelve first-degree murder defendants represented by the PD's office pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Seventeen represented by contract attorneys did the same.
PDs got 11 defendants deals for something less serious than manslaughter; contract attorneys got 18 such deals. Retained attorneys got similar deals for five clients.
The PD's office had four first-degree murder charges dismissed. Contract attorneys had six such cases dismissed and two retained attorneys managed to get dismissals.
As for the legal defender's office, they handled seven first-degree murder cases during the five years I studied. Four pleaded guilty to manslaughter, one pleaded guilty to child abuse, one pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and one committed suicide.