Harris County hires its first public defender

HOUSTON Alexander Bunin is the new Harris County public defender and he is no stranger to Houston. He attended South Texas College of Law and even started his legal career as a criminal defense attorney right here in Houston.

The creation of the Harris County Public Defender's Office itself has been hailed as long overdue by civil rights leaders, especially the Rev. Dr. William Lawson, who for years has called for a county public defender's office to handle cases for the poor, the mentally ill and other defendants who may not always receive a fair defense in the court system.

Alexander Bunin comes to the office after serving as federal public defender in Albany, New York. This new county public defender's office will be a mix of public defenders and private attorneys whose objective is to ensure all defendants receive justice, not just those who can afford to pay a lawyer.

"What it's going to do is give an independent voice to the criminal defense bar, to indigent defendants, their families and the community," said Bunin. "It's just going to be a good institutional resource for everybody."

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy says the job presents a lot of challenges.

"We're one of the largest cities in the country, we have massive criminal filings every day here that dwarf even the federal system's that (Bunin) worked in, so he's going to find a logistical problem dealing with a lot of courts and a lot of different judges," said Androphy.

Bunin was already approved unanimously by county commissioners court 5-0, so the vote today makes it official.

Also in attendance today were those who've been exonerated after serving time for crimes they did not commit. They applaud this new office.

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