Public defender: "My office is in crisis"

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Public Defender Mike Mitchell says his office is in "crisis." He says the office cannot accept any new death penalty cases. Mitchell has lost another death penalty certified lawyer in Fred Kronke, whose re-certification was denied by the indigent defender board.

"I think we are in danger of having to punt all of our capital cases over to the state public defender who probably doesn't have the funds to fund the defense of capital cases," said Mitchell.  "We only have in the office right now three certified attorneys who are certified to handle death penalty cases. Me being one of them."

District Attorney Hillar Moore is frustrated by the board's moves as well.

"The timing, it didn't seem appropriate on the de-certification of some lawyers who are talented lawyers," said Moore. "I'd like to know a little more about that."

"This to me seems like it's more of an organized effort to eventually do away with the death penalty to shut the system down. The victim's...our constitution section 25 has the right to a speedy, fast, fair trial just like the defendant does and this is really dragging on. It's what, five year to get to a trial on first degree murder death penalty cases.  And 20 years on appeal. Something is wrong with the system," said Moore.

In Louisiana, death penalty cases must be tried by lawyers who are certified to try those type of cases. Mitchell says he cannot accept any new cases because he has 7 current and 15 pending.

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