A behind-the-scenes look at Cook County public defenders' heavy caseloads

A behind-the-scenes look at Cook County public defenders' heavy caseloads
Cook County public defenders Peter Benesh and Victor Erbring. Photo by Lucio Villa.

It’s been 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anyone facing criminal charges has a right to an attorney even if they can’t afford one. The decision came out of a case called Gideon vs. Wainwright and was settled in 1963.

During that era, the criminal courts looked a lot different than they do today. Courtrooms are flooded with drug, theft and gun cases. And that’s put enormous pressure on public defenders in places such as Cook County--where, as we recently reported, they carry the highest average caseload in the country--to uphold the promise of a quality legal defense.

Public defenders Victor Erbring and Peter Benesh took us behind the scenes for a glimpse into how public defense is playing out.

Our friends over at LifeOfTheLaw.Org produced the piece. Check out more on this piece and other legal reporting here.

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