My loved one is serving life w/o parole for 2nd degree murder, and is attempting to appeal, with the help of an inmate lawyer. He's in Angola, one of the largest prisons, and one that's got plenty of inmate counsel to weigh in on his case.
But here's MY question....is inmate counsel as effective as 'private' attorneys?! I'm afraid that by not using a 'real' lawyer, he will blow his already remote chance of getting free. He insists the inmate counsel who's helping him has sent other men home, he's been doing law from the inside for 31 years....which to me begs the question: IF THIS INMATE LAWYER IS SO GOOD, WHY IS HE STILL LOCKED UP??!
But here's MY question....is inmate counsel as effective as 'private' attorneys?!
I won't speak for Louisiana, but I saw some writ writers on various units during my career with the Texas prison system that could pretty much match the work of some of the good appellate counsel in private practice around the State.
which to me begs the question: IF THIS INMATE LAWYER IS SO GOOD, WHY IS HE STILL LOCKED UP??!
No matter how good an appellate attorney is, there are some cases where there simply ARE no legitimate grounds upon which to base an appeal. The real world of practice is not like television where there was almost invariably some loophole that could be found and immediately effect a release or some antique precedent that had somehow never been overturned and that was able to get a conviction set aside. The reality is that some convictions just ARE that airtight.
I'm going to agree with CenTexLyn on this. There are some really great jailhouse lawyers out there. I'll also point out there are some pretty crappy lawyers out there as well (jailhouse and otherwise).
Now, there are reasons to use a private lawyer as opposed to jailhouse counsel, and they can be many - everything from being able to recover from the attorney if the attorney mishandles the case, or having the ability to raise ineffective assistance of counsel on the appeal should that appeal be mishandled.
My preference is to use a private lawyer when possible. If you have no other recourse, then a jailhouse lawyer may be the only option. The problem, of course, is that a real attorney actually costs money. But, a real attorney should be able to judge the case and tell you if it's worth the time, energy, and money to begin with.
And as CentTexLyn says, there are cases where there are no grounds to win on appeal. People also have the misconception that the more you spend on a case, the more likely the person is to get out/off. That's not the case. There's no threshold level that magically releases somebody. There's no, "well, this person did pay enough for freedom. If only he paid $20,000 instead of $2000...". We're stuck with the facts of the case. We're stuck with how things were presented. And there really are no magical issues of antiquated law that we avoid because people didn't pay enough.
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Also be careful. I saw some total (and expensive, both monitarily and by damaging the "client's" true standing in the courts) scams run by prisoners who said they were "legal experts" too. There were quite a few real world lawyers in prison with me, so I would always look for one of them with my questions.
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I am no lawyer and do not know all of the details on this, maybe one will elaborate, but you only have a year to appeal some things on the federal level now, something to do with an anti-terrorism bill from 1998, so keep that in mind.