Bail Out, No Public Defender - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Bail Out, No Public Defender

By Ben Briscoe
NewsChannel 10

GUYMON, OKLAHOMA - Nigal Kirkpatrick says two years ago police arrested him for something he didn't do.

"Suddenly I'm being accused of something when I didn't even know I've done something wrong," he said.

But a public defender convinced the judge to dismiss the charges - saving Kirkpatrick from five years in prison.

"That public defender is not only a gift from god, but a gift from our court systems to help us out of these situations," Kirkpatrick said.

Under bill 2266 starting November 1st, if people like him want a public defender, then they can't bail themselves out of jail.

"If they can make bail and pay for bail, then they can pay for an attorney," State Representative Gus Blackwell said.

Guymon's only bail bondsman disagrees with lawmakers. He says many of his clients have to beg their family and friends for money because they can't afford it themselves - as was the case with Kirkpatrick. Still lawmakers stand firm in the bill that's supposed to save the cash strapped state about $750,000 a year.

"It's your choice. should you decide, well I don't want to pay for my attorney, well then you need to stay in the custody of the state," Blackwell said.

If Governor Henry signs this bill into law as expected, then each county could still offer to pay for your public defender. But several officials said today local governments don't have the money for it either.

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