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Waiting for public defenders

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Nearly 6,000 Missourians were stuck on a state "waitlist" for public defender services in early 2020. In some cases, those defendants waited nearly a year for counsel. After a judge ruled that the waitlist was likely unconstitutional, how has the court system changed?

If you're facing charges in Missouri and found to be indigent, you might qualify for representation from a public defender. But defendants had to wait weeks, months or even a year for those services — sometimes while stuck in jail — after being placed on Missouri's "waitlist." Nearly a year ago, a court said the waitlist was likely unconstitutional, and after months of work, it was finally eliminated in November 2021.

Missouri Public Defender director Mary Fox shared with Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date how the public defender’s office went from a waitlist of thousands to zero in one year’s time.

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Kansas City Today is hosted by Nomin Ujiyediin. It is produced by Byron Love with Trevor Grandin and edited by Gabe Rosenberg & Lisa Rodriguez.

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As a newscaster and a host of a daily news podcast, I want to deliver the most important and interesting news of the day in an engaging and easily understandable way. No matter where you live in the metro or what you’re interested in, I want you to learn something from each newscast or podcast – and maybe even give you something to talk about at the dinner table. You can email me at nomin@kcur.org and find me on Twitter @NominUJ.
As an on-demand producer, I am focused on using my skills and experiences across multiple digital applications, platforms and media fields to create community focused audio, video and on-demand products for KCUR Studios. The media that I produce aims to inform, entertain and connect with the Kansas City metro area as we continue to learn from each other. Email me at byron@kcur.org.