Indigent Defense - Jacob Ethridge, who is indigent, faces capital murder charges stemming from the 2008 deaths of two women. Weber County, which opted out of the statewide Indigent Capital Defense Trust Fund (which provides funds to all participating counties for the defense of capital cases), sought to replace Mr. Ethridge’s court-appointed attorneys with two new lawyers who have general service public defender contracts with Weber County with no experience in capital cases.
The ACLU filed a motion on 4/22/10 arguing that appointing new and relatively inexperienced defense attorneys would violate Mr. Ethridge’s constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.
Following oral argument, the Court issued a lengthy written decision, with references to cases cited by the ACLU, affirming Mr. Ethridge’s right to maintain his current counsel. Noting that ABA standards “suggest that continuity of counsel is important for adequate and effective representation,” the Court found that Mr. Ethridge’s counsel had already hired experts, developed trial and mitigation phrase strategies, and nearly completed their preparation for trial.