Public Defender: No Money; No Death Penalty

The Cook County public defender is begging the government for help to give poor people legal defense.

On Wednesday, Public Defender Abishi Cunningham Jr. said his office is out of money to cover the defense of people facing the death penalty, and if the Legislature can't pony up the cash, Cook County prosecutors should take the death penalty off the table.

Only $100 remains in the public defender's fund for capital cases, the Trib reported.  Without money, lawyers can't pay for expert witnesses, forensic testing or other needs.

"We represent 90 percent of the cases for whom the Cook County State's Attorney is seeking the death penalty," Cunningham said.  "The funds allocated to us are barely more than half the money that is allocated to the State's Attorney's Office."

Cunningham said he would file motions in dozens of capitol cases to either rule out the possibility of the death penalty or remove the Public Defender's Office as lawyers in those cases.

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