Commonwealth v. Hairston, Joshua J.
Floyd County Circuit Court Case Nos.CR08-159 and CR08-160;
Why I Am Innocent:
#3- ‘ It is perfectly true that where homicide occurs in the course of a sudden quarrel, mutual combat, or upon sudden provocation, and the killing is from passion growing solely out of the provocation, the offense is manslaughter and not murder.’
Richardson v. Commonwealth, 128 Va. 691, 104 S.E. 788.
Why I was found guilty:
#3- ‘ Compensation to counsel appointed to represent an indigent accused in a criminal case may not exceed $100 for defense of a single charge against the indigent through its conclusion; thereafter, compensation for additional charges against the same accused also conducted by the same counsel is allowed in circuit court as follows: (i) to defend a felony charge that may be punishable by death in an amount deemed reasonable by the court; (ii) to defend a felony charge that may be punishable by confinement in the State correctional facility for a period of more than 20 years, or a charge of violation of probation for such offense, a sum not to exceed $882; (iii) to defend any other felony charge, or a charge of violation of probation for such offense, a sum not to exceed $318; and (iv) to defend any misdemeanor charge punishable by confinement in jail of a charge of violation of probation for such offense, a sum not to exceed $132.
Va. Code Ann. 19.2-163.
* As in other parts of the Nation, many low-income defendants in Virginia are African Americans. They must bear the financial costs of litigation with few available resorces and, when unable to afford legal counsel, are asked by the court to accept a court appointed attorney to represent them.
At a time when competent legal counsel can command $235 per hour, the $100, $132, $318, and $882 caps for court-appointed attorney compensation fall far too short by comparison.
…, the financial pressure of the State’s fee caps on their livelihood makes it difficult for them to provide energetic, competent counsel for poor clients, of whom African Americans are the vast majority.
…, many court-appointed attorneys acknowledged that the time and attention they devote to various cases often relate to the amount of payment they expect, leaving indigent clients underserved. The potential out-of-pocket cost is a financial disincentive for court-appointed attorneys.
Dennis W. Dohnal, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Court-Appointed Counsel Fees of the Virginia State Bar, said: THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA IS DESIGNED TO FAIL POOR PEOPLE.
Excerpt from: Unequal Justice: African Americans in the Virginia Criminal Justice System – Virginia Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.