Amazing Whitepaper by ArchCity Defenders, a legal aid organization representing indigent defendants in the St. Louis metropolitan area, on how Ferguson police/prosecutors/judiciary are in league to milk poor defendants of large fines on the basis of petty offenses.
Among the shocking bits — yes it’s still possible to be shocked — are
- Plea bargains offered to defendants rich enough to hire lawyers, but not to pro se defendants
- the systematic closing of courtrooms to the public,
- prohibiting defendants from bringing their children to court (and in at least one case charging the defendant for child neglect for leaving the child outside)
- starting trials 30 minutes before time on summons and locking doors to court five minutes after the official hour, “a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.”
There’s actually a lot more – well worth a read. Note in particular that Ferguson was one of only three municipalities in the greater St. Louis metro area singled out by Arch City Defenders for a particularly abusive practices; this is not business as usual but nor is it an isolated phenomenon.
(Spotted via Daily Kos).