One of the most widely discusses issues regarding the death penalty, especially in Philadelphia, is an ineffective assistance of counsel.
When a defendant is at risk of being sentenced to death, he or she should be defended by the best lawyer(s) possible to ensure they have the best chance of not receiving the death penalty. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, most of the time the defense is unprepared, unsuitable to working on a capital case and ultimately ineffective at creating a strong defense for the accused.
Ineffective assistance of counsel can occur many ways. For instance, in Philadelphia many of the defendants cannot afford a lawyer so they are appointed one by the city. Studies have shown that these lawyers are severely underpaid, overburdened and unfit to defend someone in a capital case. This puts the accused at a huge disadvantage, and can often lead to a false conviction.
In other instances, defense lawyers may not follow proper protocol for a capital case. Some lawyers may not investigate an alibi or submit evidence to a forensics expert to be evaluated.
In the end, the outcome is always the same. The defense is weak and the defendant is easily convicted. In capital cases, this means the defendant is at risk of being executed without having gone through a truly fair trial.
The risk of wrongfully convicting someone runs much higher when his or her defense is poor. When ineffective assistance of counsel occurs, the fairness of a trial is no longer present.