Better-paid defense sought for poor facing death penalty

Three indigent Philadelphia defendants facing the death penalty say the fee paid to their court-appointed lawyers is too low. Now, a nonprofit organization has filed a petition in Pennsylvania Supreme Court on their behalf, seeking better resources for the defense.

Earlier attempts to raise the pay for court-appointed defenders failed to get a full review in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. So the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation has decided to petition a higher court.

Center director Marc Bookman says Philadelphia’s indigent defendants do not get the resources needed to put on an adequate defense.

“There’s no comparable jurisdiction in the country that pays anywhere near as little as we do in death penalty cases,” said Bookman.

Bookman says attorneys are paid $2,000 to prepare for a capital case. In other states, court-appointed attorneys are paid substantially more to do the same work.

Bookman says the lack of resources for initial trials has led to expensive and exhaustive appeals processes for those Philadelphians sentenced to death.


This story has been updated to accurately reflect the difference between pay in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

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