Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Even with Smaller Staff, Public Defenders Look for New Ways to Help Clients

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Even with Smaller Staff, Public Defenders Look for New Ways to Help Clients

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Providing a fair defense comes at a cost, and Oklahoma County public defenders are representing clients despite cutbacks. Chief Public Defender Robert Ravitz said he would hire more attorneys and give raises to those already in the office if he could.

The caseload for the Oklahoma County public defenders has risen 30 percent over four years. Ravitz said he has lost a number of attorneys due to the high number of cases the office has faced.

"With the state how it is, it's hard to ask for more money," Ravitz said. "We're doing the best we can with what we have."

Robin Bruno is one of 50 public defenders working in the county. Bruno said the public defender's office often doesn't have projectors to present slideshows in court. They use permanent markers and poster board instead.

"We don't have enough funding, we don't have enough money for experts," Bruno said. "So it's all about footwork, and that means me."

Bruno has worked for the public defender's office for almost 16 years. She has tried more than 70 cases and worked more than 20,000. Bruno said she has dedicated her life to those who need help the most.

"I feel like even though you're poor, you deserve to have a vigorous defense," Bruno said. "If not for a public defender, nobody listens to them."

Bruno graduated from the University of Tulsa School of Law. During the summers she interned at the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

Bruno said representing Julius Jones, a former high school football player who was given a death sentence for killing an insurance executive in Edmond, was her final death-penalty case.

Now, she works mostly with people accused of felonies and advocates for people who are mentally ill. She said it's more effective to focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution.

"Unfortunately, with the state of affairs, the state has cut all sorts of funding for people who are mentally ill," Bruno said. …

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