The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 13, 2013

Guilty until proven innocent


Daily Item

---- — My oldest son recently found himself in need of a criminal lawyer. The experience of finding a lawyer and going to trial was one of the most traumatic, demoralizing experiences of my 42 years on this earth. My son wasn't able to hire a paid lawyer, so he had to apply to the public defenders office. The public defender he received has shown a lack of professionalism since the start. He and the district attorney handling this case discussed the aspects and evidence in my son's case on a main street in Milton, where people walking by could hear confidential details of my son's case. We heard that day how our son needed to be locked away. Oddly I thought you were innocent until found guilty, but this appeared not to be the mentality in my son's case. We have stopped at the public defenders office several times over the past few weeks to advocate fair treatment for our son. We asked that his lawyer go speak to him, prepare for his trial, plan a defense, listen to what my son has to say, which we considered to be reasonable requests. We even wrote him several letters asking him to go see our son or at least call him on the phone. We did everything we could think of to try and engage this lawyer in our son's case. Our son continuously professed his innocence to this lawyer, so at the very least he deserves effective counsel during a trial of his peers. Last Friday my son had a hearing. Afterwards, my family stopped this public defender in the hallway to ask if he had spoken to our son, what his plans for a defense were. We were looking for reassurance that our son wasn't just getting swept under the proverbial rug. This public defender began yelling at us about how he gave our son the advice he gets paid to give. He said our son should take the plea he was offered, and if he chose not to take it then whatever happened to him was on us. This all took place in a very crowded hallway on the first floor of the court house. We were approached by several bystanders who all told us how horrible he was for doing that. Another attorney approached us and offered her card because she was appalled by the manner in which the public defender spoke to us about our son. The public defender in my son's case displayed the height of unprofessional behavior. To him you are guilty until proven innocent, which sadly is how most view our legal system.

Amanda Gelnett, Hughesville