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Justice delayed, justice denied
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Forsyth County News
It is unconscionable that the men accused of murdering four people at a Forsyth County farm house more than three years ago have not yet gone to trial. But it’s true.

Three years after the gruesome slaughter those charged with the crime await trial because of funding problems in the state’s indigent defense program.

All face death penalty trials, and the state in recent years has failed to consistently provide the financial resources necessary for appointed counsel to provide an acceptable level of defense in such  cases.

As a result, families of the victims continue to wait for the courts to decide who it was that killed their loved ones.

Defendants sit in jail, without being able to make bond and without having been convicted of any crime.

Lawyers for the defense work without being paid, or have to beg for money they rightfully have earned.

Prosecutors face the daunting task of holding together witnesses and evidence that will allow them to present their cases so that at some point a jury hopefully can consider guilt or innocence.

And the concept of “justice being done” in a timely manner is lost amid political posturing over state budgets and the red ink of a floundering economy.

Just last month came the news that funding has been found to make it feasible for one of the cases to move forward. We will believe it when the judge’s gavel drops to open the trial.

Financial problems within the indigent attorney program are not solely the result of the recent economic downturn that has affected all state-funded programs. Lawmakers have for years tried to decide how best to provide effective legal counsel for those who cannot afford it, as is every person’s constitutional right.

They sadly have not yet found a solution that works, as evidenced by the Forsyth County case.

With an election year next year, local legislators are gearing up to run for re-election, or to seek higher office. New faces are considering a run for state assembly seats. Gubernatorial candidates are lining up in a crowded field for both parties. All are looking for issues to talk about, and ways to improve state government.

We suggest that finding a way to offer publicly financed lawyers for those who need them should be at the top of the list. What we have now has made a travesty of the American judicial system.