Does our criminal justice system truly guarantee JUSTICE FOR ALL? Not if you don’t have the money to hire your own top-notch attorney, it doesn’t. Our Cover Story is reported by Lee Cowan:
You’re about to hear some pretty strong words from this law professor … so strong they’re almost hard to believe:
“When we pledge allegiance to the flag and we say ‘liberty and justice for all,’ that’s just not true. I’m sorry,” said Stephen Bright.
“So is the notion of equal justice under the law really just a myth?” asked Cowan.
“Oh, I think it is, yes. Unless something changes, we’re going to have to someday sandblast ‘equal justice under law’ off the Supreme Court building, because for the 80% of people who are poor, we don’t have anything that comes anywhere close to being equal justice under law.”
Bright currently teaches law at Yale University, but spent much of his career at the Southern Center for Human Rights, fighting to help those charged with a crime but who can’t afford an attorney to defend them in court.
People like Shanna Shackelford, who says her life was ruined after her home outside Atlanta caught fire in 2009.
She wasn’t home at the time, but a small insurance policy she had taken out on the rental house made investigators suspicious.
“I thought it was just a misunderstanding, like, they’re going to figure this out, and it’s going to be okay,” she told Cowan.
But it wasn’t. Shackelford found herself under arrest, charged with arson. “My grandma was like, ‘You might need to get an attorney and talk to somebody,'” Shackelford said.
But she didn’t have money for an attorney. So she applied for a public defender — a court-appointed lawyer tasked with making sure the 6th Amendment is upheld. (That’s…