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Accused killer sues public defender system

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POSTED: January 1, 2009 12:11 p.m.
ATLANTA (AP) - A man who faces a possible death sentence for a killing almost three years ago filed suit Wednesday against officials of Georgia's public defender system, claiming he has been denied representation for eight months.
Jamie Ryan Weis is charged in the Feb. 2, 2006 death of Catherine King in her Pike County home.
The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Atlanta on Weis' behalf by four prominent Atlanta lawyers after trial judge Johnnie Caldwell scheduled a hearing for Monday in the murder case.
"This is surely an unprecedented deprivation of counsel in modern times," the lawsuit said.
Weis's case underscores budget problems plaguing the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.
His appointed lawyers, Bob Citronberg and Tom West, were removed from the case in November 2007 when the council did not have the money to pay them.
Two local public defenders were ordered to take over, but they objected. They cited heavy case loads that left them no time nor resources to defend a capital case.
An agreement was reached in April for Citronberg and West to return to the case if Mack Crawford, director of the defender system, signed a contract allowing them to be paid.
"He should not have delayed the reinstatement of counsel for eight days," the lawsuit said. "The delay of eight months is unconscionable."
Crawford and Gerry Word, the acting head of the capital defender's office who also is named in the suit, declined comment Wednesday, saying they had not seen the suit.
Scott Ballard, the district attorney in Pike County, called the situation "frustrating."
"Everybody wants the defendant to be well represented. We'll be ready to prosecute just as soon as they're ready," Ballard said.
Weis's suit seeks a court order reinstating Citronberg and West. It was filed by lawyers Stephen Bright, Sarah Geraghty, Ed Garland and Don Samuel.
 

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