Public Defenders a Credit to Colorado

March 29 2005, 6:15 AM

Colorado has one of the finest public defender programs in the nation. This was particularly evident Monday with two wins from the Colorado Supreme Court, one reversing Lisl Auman's life sentence and one refusing to reinstate Robert Harlan's death sentence. Kathleen Lord was counsel on both cases. Sharlayne Reynolds was co-counsel on the Harlan case. At a time when indigent defense is in crisis mode around the country due to lack of adequate funding and a shortage of lawyers willing to take the hard, unpopular cases, Coloradans should be proud that their defenders stand head and shoulders among the best. There is little money and even less glory in being a public defender. Typically, the public views only prosecutors in the role of heros, since they represent the victim, the good guy, the blameless one. Shows like Law and Order reinforce this notion, due to "Wolf's Law," which is that prosecutors are doing God's work. Today's Supreme Court decisions show that defenders do God's work too, and not just when they represent the innocent. These defenders work to protect the rights of the lowest and most hated among us, so that those rights be there for us and our children should we need them. Gov. Bill Owens, rather than criticizing the Supreme Court for rejecting the death penalty for Robert Harlan, should be proclaiming March 28 " Kathleen Lord Day" in Colorado.