"Khahn Dinh Phan, Accused Killer, Could Go Free If Public Defender Problems Persist, Says Georgia Court," is the title of a report by John Rudolf at Huffington Post.
The case of a Georgia man who has spent nearly seven years in jail waiting for his death-penalty trial to begin is an "egregious" example of the state's failure to provide sufficient funding for indigent defense, a former Georgia Supreme Court chief justice said Thursday.
"It is egregious when seven years go by and you still haven't been tried," Norman S. Fletcher, who retired as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court in 2005, said in an interview with The Huffington Post. "The state has not lived up to its obligations."
On Feb. 27, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Khahn Dinh Phan, charged with two counts of murder, to have his case dismissed because the state had violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Phan has been jailed in Gwinnett County, Ga., about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, since his arrest in March 2005.
While the court denied the motion, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein noted in the decision that further delay in the case could well "tip the scales" in Phan's favor and lead to his release. "We warn the clock is still ticking," Hunstein wrote.
The court found that the delay in Phan's case was largely attributable to Georgia's failure to provide sufficient funds for him to mount a defense in the death penalty case, part of a system-wide shortage of funding statewide.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruling in Phan v. The State is available in Adobe .pdf format.