A murder defendant who has been denied legal representation for eight months is suing the head of the Georgia public defender system.
“This is surely an unprecedented deprivation of counsel in modern times,” said the lawsuit, filed for Jamie Ryan Weis by prominent Atlanta lawyers Stephen Bright, Sarah Geraghty, Ed Garland and Don Samuel.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Weis for the 2006 killing of Catherine King.
Since April, Weis has been sitting in jail awaiting trial without lawyers to represent him. The lawsuit was filed after trial judge Johnnie Caldwell scheduled a January 5th hearing on the case.
“It’s frustrating,” Pike County District Attorney Scott Ballard said. “We’ll be ready to prosecute just as soon as they’re ready.”
The suit was filed in Fulton County Superior Court against Robert “Mack” Crawford, director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and Gerry Word, acting head of the capital defender’s office.
Weis’ case has highlights the budgetary problems plaguing the state’s public defender system.
Weis’ two appointed lawyers, Bob Citronberg and Tom West, were removed from the case in November 2007 when the cash-strapped defender system did not have the money to pay them.
Two local public defenders were ordered to take over the case, but they objected, saying they already had crushing caseloads and had neither the time nor the resources to defend a capital case.
At a court hearing in April, an agreement was reached to return Citronberg and West to the case, provided that Crawford sign a contract allowing them to be paid. That has yet to occur.
Crawford should have signed the contract long ago, the suit said. “He should not have delayed the reinstatement of counsel for eight days; the delay of eight months is unconscionable.”
Weis’ suit seeks a court order reinstating Citronberg and West as his lawyers.
Separately, the lawyers filed a motion Wednesday in Pike County objecting to Monday’s court hearing because Weis has no criminal defense lawyers.