Dr. Robert Townsend is a court approved Expert Witness
and has testified as such on many occasions, he is sought out by attorneys for advice and testimony in cases involving the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, and with criminal cases involving complicated medical evidence. He has seen first hand how the justice system works- as a medical expert, as a litigant in civil and family court and even as a defendant facing down a prosecutor.
One such case that was very telling on his view of the criminal justice system was a murder trial in N. Michigan. The patient was unable to secure a private attorney. The state spent more than $480,000 prosecuting him, and paid his public defender around $40,000. This inequity severely hampered his defense. Going up against the near limitless financial and legal resources of the state, his public defender could not afford to hire the experts he needed to mount his case (Dr. Townsend assisted the defense free of charge in the interest of justice).
Public defenders are paid the same to take a case to trial as to settle with a plea bargain. Due to the low pay and client load, the vast majority of defendants never get their day in court. They don’t get the aggressive defense they need to protect their rights. Prosecutors regularly exploit this financial disadvantage by adding multiple charges, driving up the cost of the defense and bullying the potentially innocent defendant into settling to avoid the cost and serious penalties of taking the case to court. Dr. Townsend believes that public defenders should be paid in proportion to the the cost of the prosecution, and should be paid more if they take the case to court to defend the rights of those accused of crimes.
While funding the prosecution is many times viewed from the approach of getting ‘tough on crime’, it is important to remember that those charged with crimes are presumed innocent and entitled to their day in court. As Dr. Townsend is known to say
‘Sometimes the keys to freedom are found in the dirtiest of hands’
Once duly convicted and sent to incarceration, prisoners deserve to be treated humanely, given proper food and medical care (to include pain management and addiction care), and re-trained to enter society at the conclusion of their sentences. They are entitled to a safe environment while incarcerated, and hope when they return to society.