- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2001

ANNAPOLIS (AP) The states highest court has ruled that those accused of crimes are entitled to an attorney during all stages of the legal proceedings against them, even if they cannot afford one themselves.
"'All means 'all," Judge John C. Eldridge wrote for the unanimous Court of Appeals in a 12-page decision last week.
But that was not specific enough for some lawyers, who cannot agree on whether "all" includes bail review hearings. Only four Maryland jurisdictions provide public defenders for bail reviews.
Many argue that the right of legal representation for defendants should extend to those hearings, in which a judge sets bail based largely on whether a criminal defendant is a flight risk or dangerous.
Studies have shown that defendants without attorneys are more likely to spend time in jail, even if they are accused of nonviolent crimes.
University of Maryland law professor Douglas L. Colbert, who called the high courts decision "one of the most important right-to-counsel decisions" in Maryland, interpreted the Court of Appeals ruling to mean "that Maryland is on record for protecting every persons right to counsel at every stage of a criminal proceeding."
"There is no reasonable interpretation to exclude any phase of a criminal case, and certainly bail reviews are included from a fair reading of the courts opinion," Mr. Colbert said.
But State Public Defender Stephen E. Harris said a defendants right to legal representation does not apply to bail-review hearings, and argued that his office does not have the resources to staff them anyway.
Legislation that would set aside nearly $1 million to extend public defender representation to bail reviews has repeatedly died in the General Assembly. Mr. Harris supported those measures, but said the Court of Appeals ruling would not lead him to extend representation on his own.
"Until there is a court order that says we have to do it, we dont have the funding," Mr. Harris said.
The courts decision stemmed from the Wicomico County drug conviction of Antwone P. McCarter, who waived his constitutional right to a jury trial at his first court appearance, but not his right to an attorney. McCarter later decided that he wanted a jury trial.
The Court of Appeals said the trial judge should not have asked a defendant who has not waived his right to an attorney to make a crucial decision like whether to be tried by a judge.


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