HOUGHTON — Those facing legal troubles and in need of an attorney in the Keweenaw will soon be able to receive more adequate representation. Plans are underway to open a non-profit organization that would operate a Tri-County Defender’s Office, providing council to those who stand accused and cannot afford an attorney.
Defense attorney Dave Gemignani said “The current system right now is broken for all 83 counties of Michigan.”
Gemignani has been addressing boards of commissioners in Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties and explaining the need for a public defenders office and it’s funding in order to provide better resources for defendants, regardless of their ability to pay. Those resources will include the use of expert witnesses, forensic analysis, and will also allow for the hiring of two more defense attorneys as needed.
“Where this is all generated from is the six amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees a defendant the right to council. And if they’re indigent, they still have that right to council provided with state assistance. It’s a constitutional right, it’s a fundamental right, and the state recognizes that, and I think the state has also recognized the deficiency in implementing indigent criminal defense through the years,” said Gemignani.
All three counties have approved his proposal and each county will be contributing a portion of the necessary funding based on their average spending on indigent defense, while the state would be funding the other two thirds of the costs.
Gemignani says that Michigan currently under funds its indigent defense in all 83 counties and a recent study ranked the state 44th in the nation for adequately providing proper defense.