NEW ORLEANS, La. (WGNO)- Starting on April 15, Orleans Public Defenders began furloughing their leadership and management teams and the remain staff will be furloughed May 1.
“We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our constitution rights for public health,” said Derwyn Bunton, Chief Defender.
Unfortunately, that’s what is happening, due to the lack of funding. Orleans Public Defenders are projecting an $800,000 shortfall.
‘Public defenders are crucial in getting folks into court and arguing for their bond reduction for their out right release and for change in policy,” explained Bunton.
Their fear is the serious ramifications that come with the Covid-19 shut downs.
“What this does is crater our organization that when we come on the other side of this we are going to be in an immediate constitutional crisis. We won’t have enough resources to move cases. They will be stagnant and you can only prosecute as fast as you can defend.” reasoned Bunton.
The danger that brings, is the open cases that are in the system already will ‘die on the vine.”
“Those cases could also result in innocent people going to jail because we don’t have the resources to exonerate them to find the evidence to tell the district attorney and public that they didn’t do it,” said Bunton.
Bunton says, they are the only ones in the legal system being forced to furlough. “And, that should signal to people who are looking, the unfairness of our system and the inequities that we still need to reckon with as a community.”