Tuesday, July 06, 2004

More from the Washington Post on bad lawyers in Virginia criminal cases

The Washington Post has this editorial ("Inexcusable delay," 7/5/04) and this editorial ("Attention: Virginia Bar," 7/6/04), continuing its series on the inadequate representation of indigent criminal defendants in Virginia.

The latter includes the following:

"For equanimity in the face of failing a client, though, no one can match Andrea C. Long. Last November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, dismissed the habeas corpus appeal of Kenneth B. Lewis, a state inmate serving more than 30 years for murder; Mr. Lewis's lawyer, Ms. Long, the court ruled, had filed the notice of his appeal four days too late. Ms. Long insisted in an April letter to Mr. Lewis and in a recent interview that the error was not her own; the court's clerk had stamped the wrong date, she maintains -- an explanation that five prominent appellate experts we consulted described as highly implausible and which Ms. Long admits that she cannot prove. "While I do not know whether you are a religious man, I am a religious woman," she concluded in her letter. "I can't help but believe" that the error "had to be the work of God, since it was no fault of yours or mine. That means that there is some purpose that God has for you to remain in prison." She signed off, wishing Mr. Lewis luck as "you find and fulfill that purpose." The presence of lawyers in Virginia's defense bar who could write such a letter or throw case after case away is not an act of God. And it should not be tolerated any longer."

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