Twelve attorneys in the Boone County’s Public Defender’s office are handling almost as many murder cases.
Sarah Aplin, the district defender in the local office, said she and her staff are handling 10 ongoing murder cases. “In the six years that I have been here, that is a large number of murder cases to be handling at one time,” Aplin said.
On Monday, prosecutors charged Cameron White with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a teenager. It’s not clear if White will apply for a public defender to represent him in court. According to online records, in his first court appearance, White did not indicate that he will be hiring a private attorney.
Currently, seven of the 12 attorneys are handling the murder cases, Aplin said. Beyond the murder cases, the office has a caseload of about 900.
“It’s challenging to make sure that every single client is getting the representation that they deserve as a human being, as a citizen or a person in this country who is entitled to all of these protections,” she said.
Aplin added that murder cases tend to be more work-intensive.
“A typical murder case, if there is such a thing, is going to involve, usually, a lot of medical or scientific testimony and research that needs to be prepared,” Aplin said. “Usually there’s a lot more moving parts to those cases.”
The public defender’s office, which represents poor people accused in criminal court, has taken on a challenging number of cases with limited resources statewide.
The director of the state Public Defender Commission, Michael Barrett, told lawmakers that the volume of cases handled by the department affects their jobs.
“The overload has forced lawyers and investigators alike to cut corners, skip steps, and make on‐the‐fly triage decisions in order to keep up with the deluge of cases coming in the door,” Barrett wrote to state lawmakers in a budget request for fiscal year 2020. “As a result, effectiveness in many of these cases is seriously compromised.”