Delaware Report

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FULL REPORT (6.3 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center. The Crucible of Adversarial Testing: Access to Counsel in Delaware’s Criminal Courts. (February 2014)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ONLY (1.3 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center. The Crucible of Adversarial Testing: Access to Counsel in Delaware’s Criminal Courts. (February 2014)

In Delaware, able attorneys are working in a structure that prevents them from meeting constitutional adequacy despite their commitment, dedication and hard work. System­ic impediments clear out thousands of defendants each year who should be receiving representation under the Sixth Amendment, but that are not. These defendants either face subtle (or sometimes direct) pressure to forego the right to the assistance of coun­sel, or unwittingly waive that right without knowing the full consequences of doing so. Where defendants have not already relented to pressure to forego the right to counsel, their lawyers are provided too late and with too little time to be the zealous advocates that each defendant has as his privilege. And as a result, Delaware’s indigent defense function fails to subject the prosecution’s case to “the crucible of meaningful adversar­ial testing” rendering the entire adversarial process “presumptively unreliable.” [United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984).]

dereport-coverThese are the Sixth Amendment Center’s findings from a statewide evaluation of right to counsel services in Delaware, funded by a U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. The 6AC’s report, The Crucible of Adversarial Testing, released on February 18, 2014, documents these deficiencies and recommends large-scale systemic changes to bring Delaware into compliance with the minimum demands of the U.S. Constitution.

Part One of the report (Chapters 1 through 4; pages 13-100) explores the constitutional requirement to provide defendants with early access to counsel. Though defendants are advised of the right to the assistance of counsel at their initial appearance, no formal activation of that right occurs unless the defendant is unfor­tunate enough to remain incarcerated pretrial. As a result, many out-of-custody defendants appear at subsequent critical stages in the Court of Common Pleas without representation – perhaps more without counsel than with. There they face subtle, and often overt, pressure to discuss potential plea arrangements with the prosecution or to waive due process rights, without the advice of a lawyer, and all for reasons that appear to have more to do with keeping the whole process moving than with a desire to ensure the fairness of the result.

Part Two (Chapters 5 & 6; pages 101-148) details how systemic deficiencies prevent those defendants who do manage to invoke their right to counsel from getting adequate representation.

Part Three (Chapters 6 & 7; pages 149-184) details Delaware’s lack of on-going training and supervision of the lawyers representing the indigent accused. Without a rigorous training structure, any organization will develop its own set of values from within. Over time, that which may have once been grudgingly accepted, like saving investigation for only the most serious cases, presuming that all clients have the same views toward their case outcomes and, based on that assumption alone, entering guilty pleas on behalf of those clients only moments after meeting them in court – all of which we found occurring throughout Delaware – now becomes the established standard.

How to Download the Report

Please download the report by clicking the link provided below. (If you have any trouble downloading or opening the file, please contact Jon Mosher.)

FULL REPORT (6.3 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center. The Crucible of Adversarial Testing: Access to Counsel in Delaware’s Criminal Courts. (February 2014)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ONLY (1.3 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center. The Crucible of Adversarial Testing: Access to Counsel in Delaware’s Criminal Courts. (February 2014)