New Laws Help Those Who Can't Afford Attorneys - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

New Laws Help Those Who Can't Afford Attorneys

Michigan is among the worst states in the country when it comes to providing adequate court-appointed attorneys for people who can't afford them. It's been an ongoing problem but Monday the governor took steps to change that.

Ruth Harlin says though it's been almost thirty years, the memories of injustice continue to haunt her family, after her brother was wrongfully accused of rape and murder. 

"He was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit," said Harlin.

He spent 17 years behind bars as an innocent man, and she says the reason is inadequate legal representation.

"He had a lawyer, did not represent him at all, maybe went to see him once," said Harlin.

Sadly Harlin's story isn't as uncommon as you might think.

"We're solving a problem in Michigan that we've had for far too long," said Governor Rick Snyder at a press conference.

Snyder signed two bills into law, creating the "Michigan Indigent Defense Commission", a panel of legal experts whose job it will be to make sure- all court appointed attorneys are capable, and up to par with their constitutional requirements.

"Everyone deserves it. Everyone deserves appropriate justice," Snyder said.

Harlin was on stage with the governor as the bill became law.

"We did not know the defense system would let us down the way it did. if we had known we would have been willing to mortgage our homes –anything to see that he would not have been convicted of that crime that he did not commit," said Harlin.

And though her brother won't get back the nearly two decades he lost,  Harlin hopes the law spares other families the pain hers still feels.

"We're still suffering. we're the ones that have to carry that memory--no one else--carry it every day," said Harlin.

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