Attorney criticizes legal community for refusal to handle pro Deo cases

POSTED: 06/24/11 12:46 PM

Hatzmann: “This is purely a matter of money”

St. Maarten – “This is a disgrace. Attorneys are making a lot of money and nobody wants to do pro Deo work,” criminal defense attorney mr. Geert Hatzmann told this newspaper yesterday in a reaction to the fact that his former client Calniff McGarry Cultico Williams stood before the Common Court of justice yesterday without legal counsel.

Hatzmann defended Williams in the Basilio Bruno manslaughter case. Bruno, aka hairdresser Eddy was stabbed eighteen times on December 21, 2008 at his home in the Manzanillasteeg. The Court in First Instance sentenced Williams to 15 years.

In March, Hatzmann appealed the verdict, but a month later he desisted. His client was frustrated about the trial’s outcome and criticized the way Hatzmann had conducted his defense.

“I told him that these things happen and I wished him all the best,” Hatzmann said yesterday. “On Wednesday he called me and asked if I wanted to handle his appeal after all, but I responded that I thought that was not a good idea.”

Hatzmann now criticizes the legal community for turning its back on pro Deo cases for defendants who are unable to pay for a lawyer. State appointed attorneys get less money for their services then colleagues who bill their clients. “I do pro Deo work and Shaira Bommel as well,” Hatzmann said. “But no other law office accepts these cases, except when they are the attorney on duty. It is a hell of a job to find another law office for Williams. I find it incomprehensible that nobody says: I understand that this defendant is insolvent. It is purely a matter of money.”

Judge mr. E.M. van der Bunt said yesterday morning in court that the social worker at the Pointe Blanche prison had made an attempt to find a new attorney for the defendant. “This is a serious case; we are talking about murder,” Van der Bunt said. “It is irresponsible to continue without an attorney.”

Solicitor-General mr. A.C. van der Schans agreed that the defendant must be represented by a lawyer.

“The social worker could not find anyone who wants to take my case,” Williams told the court.

The appeal will now be handled on August 25. In the meantime, the court will assist in finding an attorney for Williams.


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