This is an important, must-see movie. It is a story about a sister and a brother who grow up on a farm. They are close and often get into trouble together. The brother is wilder, and when a murder happens he is first arrested as a suspect, then released and then two years later rearrested for it. He is convicted and sentenced to life without parole. His sister has a GED but pledges to him that she will go to school, get a law degree and free him. Amazingly, it takes her 18 years to do so, but she is able to free him.

You can read the transcript and view the video of the movie interview with Larry King here. But I really urge you to see this movie. It is deeply moving and real.

Our view on legal rights: When ‘free’ lawyers aren’t free

USA Today published the above editorial opinion about a study released by the Brennan Center for Justice about “…cash-strapped states imposing “user fees” on defendants, even those too poor to pay, to help defray criminal justice costs…” even to the point of imprisoning individuals who cannot afford to pay legal fees or leaving them saddled for the rest of their lives with growing debts which overwhelm them. The study discusses 15 states which it says their practices undermine “…the whole point of guaranteeing counsel — that every defendant is presumed innocent and that nobody should be denied a fair trial because of poverty…” and lead to wrongful convictions. Illinois is pointed out in the study as being one of the 15 states and one in which judges often use the wrong standard in court to determine if the court can charge a defendant for using the Public Defender. The whole text of the study (which can be downloaded from the Brenden Center for Justice link in the body of the editorial) contains interesting details on the shameful ways that the states nickel and dime defendants for the costs of a defense.

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