Local Interest
11:29 am
Thu August 2, 2007

New Hanover County Lands Public Defender

Wilmington, NC – A small piece of the new $20 billion state budget will pay for a New Hanover County Public Defender.

Senior Superior Court Judge Allen Cobb will select a public defender from a list of names submitted by the state bar. That person will then work with the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services to plan and pick staff.

Right now private defense attorneys are assigned to cases and paid $65 an hour. Executive Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services, Ty Hunter, says saving money is one benefit of having a public defenders office.

Another benefit I think for the community is that there's somebody in charge if someone has a problem, you know, there's more accountability.

District Attorney Ben David says he's cautiously optimistic about the public defenders office slated for New Hanover County.

David says while savings should not be the goal of the criminal justice system, he does see a cost benefit to setting up a public defenders office in New Hanover County.

David says a public defender could help the wheels of justice turn a little faster in New Hanover County.

This could have the potential for speeding up the cases and alleviating some of the backlog that we have. And ultimately helping out with our numbers at the jail, which is something that at a local concern, New Hanover County tax payers pay for.

The state says it hopes to have the New Hanover County public defender in place by November with the office fully staffed in a year.

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