Defendants facing death penalty go months without representation

Defendants facing death penalty go months without representation

(WVUE) - "Mark Hambrick was indicted this past February for the first-degree murder killing of his child," says District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Hambrick, who is accused of stabbing and suffocating his 18-month-old daughter, remains locked up. His capital murder case is, essentially, at a standstill.

"The matter has been seen for arraignment in the Criminal District Court on four separate occasions," says Cannizzaro.

Each time he has been in court, a member of the Capital Appeals Project is there to ask the judge for a continuance. The Capital Appeals Project tells FOX 8 that the Louisiana Public Defender's Board appoints an attorney with the project to protect Hambrick's rights, not to represent him. The State Board says a budget shortage is causing big problems for defendants facing capital murder charges around the state.

"We've had to cut 30% in the last couple of years, and so we've been struggling with capital representation because we are required to provide that statewide," says State Public Defender, James Dixon.

Dixon says about 10 defendants, like Hambrick, have been on a waiting list for the past 6 or 7 months without representation. That means, those individuals are locked up and have not been able to even enter a plea in their case.

"They don't have an active defense team, so their case cannot go forward. They don't have the presentation required by law," says Dixon.

"The more the case is dragged out, the more difficult it is for us to bring all the witnesses and keep the evident together in order to have a successful prosecution," says Cannizzaro.

Orleans DA Leon Cannizzaro says the situation isn't fair to his office or the victims in these cases. Meanwhile, Dixon admits those accused of committing the crimes aren't given the help they need to defend themselves.

"It really is just a disaster from every angle. The person who the state is trying to kill doesn't have a lawyer. That is a real problem, and the fact that we don't have enough money to get that done is a tragedy," says Dixon.

The state board tells FOX 8, it was able to identify and hire a team of investigators and attorneys to represent Hambrick. His next court date is August 27th.

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