(WKBN) — WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford continued our In-Depth segment with President of the Mahoning County Bar Association Ryan Ingram by addressing the stigma associated with the public defender.

“Well, there is a stigma associated with the public defender. And I believe that it’s unfair and unwarranted. So, for instance, when you’re either court appointed, the public defender is representing somebody. When you go to meet with that individual and you tell them that you’re either court appointed, you work with the public defender, and for some reason, they are under the impression that you are working with the state or you’re working against them, and that is not necessarily fair or the case. So in my personal experience, I’ve had a few individuals ask me, well, if I retain you, if I pay you, what will you do differently? And the answer to that is, I’m not going to do anything differently. Whether I’m retained or whether I’m appointed to represent you, I took an oath to zealously represent you, and that’s exactly what I will do. I would file the same motions. I would do everything the exact same, whether I am court-appointed or whether I am retained,” said Ingram.

But for those individuals who qualified because they meet the standards or eligibility and to have the stigma of less representation went without them, they would have no representation.

“Well, some individuals will elect to represent themselves, and there’s the old adage that if you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client, and I have sat through a few series where I’ve seen people trying cases themselves, and they have a standby lawyer who just has to sit there but can’t actually participate unless they would ask them to participate,” said Ingram.

Does Ingram see that same, “stigma” with capital case representation?

“No. Capital cases are completely different. Normally, there are at least two lawyers appointed on capital cases who have the proper qualification. I have not seen that issue in a capital case,” said Ingram.

“I just don’t believe that a judge would ever permit them to represent themselves in a capital case, just given what the state’s planning… A capital case is one where there is a death penalty specification, so where they could potentially impose a death penalty,” said Ingram.

Ingram said the future of his office is challenged right now.

“Well, in the public defender’s realm. There’s always been chatter of a public defender’s office coming in here to Mahoning County, but I can’t tell you that there are some very, very talented and very seasoned lawyers on our court-appointed list who, if I was in trouble or I had a predicament of my own, I would seek their counsel…So there are very good lawyers on that list. I think the system that we have here in Mahoning County is working very well,” said Ingram.

But that would be going back to what existed prior to where there was a specific office. The public defenders, even though they didn’t handle all of the cases, there was a specific office.

“There was so there was a public defender’s office, I believe, in Youngstown Municipal Court, which would handle misdemeanor cases and bind overseas. So in order for that to happen, I guess the public defender’s office would have to come in, establish an office in Mahoning County, and then contract with lawyers in Mahoning County to work for the public defender, and in certain courtrooms. There has always been talk of that happening dating back 30 years, but I have not heard much chatter about that recently,” said Ingram.