Archived Story

Cotter heads to Lansing

Published 5:45pm Sunday, September 23, 2012

ST. JOSEPH — Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter will be at the Supreme Court in Lansing Sept. 27 opposing free attorneys for parole appeals.

“It’s cost Berrien County taxpayers $7,500 so far on (five) paroles to give these defendants a second attorney to argue for them to uphold parole release,” Cotter said. “It’s a waste of money, in my opinion, having watched the process,” by which an attorney files an amicus brief (a court document filed by someone not directly related to a case) concurring.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette has an assistant representing the parole board who intervenes, “and effectively, argues the inmate’s case,” Cotter said at Thursday’s meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners administration committee. “We challenged, or appealed, as an abuse of discretion three second-degree murders, a child rapist and a guy who slit a woman’s throat while on parole for raping another woman. This was in civil court, whether or not inmates have the right to a free attorney. Constitutionally and by statute, they don’t. They can hire an attorney if they want, represent themselves or not answer. It’s up to them. But they’re not entitled to an attorney. To those who ask if that’s fair, I say there is an assistant attorney general fighting like mad to uphold the honor of the parole board. He’s prevailed on three, we’ve prevailed on two.”

Cotter said prosecutors hadn’t appealed parole releases until about 2009, “when the parole board went crazy, letting people out they never would have let out before. They doubled the release of violent offenders and sex offenders. The public hearing Sept. 27 is about changing the court rule across the state to require that appointment.”

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