Innefective Defense Attorneys

The Facts
There are a number of reasons why a defendants’ defense may not be sufficient:

  • Resources in judicial system are stacked against poor defendants
  • Defense lawyers can be ineffective, incompetent, or overburdened with many cases
  • Overworked lawyers may fail to properly investigate, call key witnesses, or adequately prepare for trial
  • Public defenders and court-appointed attorneys are not able to access adequate resources because of decreased funding

A review of exonerated cases has shown a trail of unacceptable defense lawyering at the trial and appeal levels. In some of the worst cases, defense attorneys have:

  • Slept in the courtroom during trial
  • Been disbarred shortly after finishing death penalty case
  • Failed to investigate alibis
  • Failed to call or consult experts on forensic evidence
  • Failed to show up for hearings


There are a number of reforms that can improve defense lawyering. For example, securing adequate pay for public defenders may improve competency and quality of defense attorneys. Caseloads for defense lawyers should be required to meet federal standards. In addition, federal funds need to remain substantial as to not limit resources for defense lawyers.




Courtesy of Innocence Project of Minnesota (©2007)