Statement of Senator Rodney Ellis Concerning Today's United States
Supreme Court Arguments in Rothgery v. Gillespie County
"When I authored the Texas Fair Defense Act in 2001, myself and other criminal justice advocates hoped that the Act would lead to much needed major reforms in the Texas criminal justice system. The goal was very simple: protect every Texan's constitutional right to an attorney and keep innocent people out of our jails and prisons. Seven years later, Texas has made some progress, but we still have a long way to go in order to catch up with the rest of the United States and ensuring that Texas is upholding the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, as we see in the case of Mr. Rothgery, some counties are still appointing lawyers months after someone has been arrested, resulting in innocent people's lives being ruined while they're languishing in jail or waiting for an attorney to prove their innocence.
When the United State Supreme Court reviews the question -- at what point a person accused of a crime is entitled to an attorney -- in Rothgery v. Gillespie County, it is my sincere hope that it follows precedence and determines that an attorney should have been appointed to Mr. Rothgery within days of his appearance before the magistrate. Such a decision would mean that a person accused of a crime would get the attorney that he or she is entitled to in the early critical stages of the process. This decision would follow the spirit of the Fair Defense Act and bring Texas closer to ensuring that impoverished defendants are given the opportunity to prove their innocence."