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The staff of the Mingo County Public Defender's office celebrates National Public Defender Day Sunday. Pictured are paralegal Brandy Shepperd, secretary Kathy Collins, attorney William C. Duty, attorney Paul Montgomery, manager Tiera Asbury, attorney David Foley and Chief Public Defender Teresa McCune, seated. Travis Crum/Williamson Daily News

WILLIAMSON - Chief Public Defender Teresa McCune said her office is celebrating a national day that applauds the importance of her office's work in Mingo County.

McCune helped recognize Sunday as National Public Defender Day, celebrating a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that required states provide attorneys to criminal defendants who can't afford it.

Public defenders are among the most dedicated and skilled criminal defense lawyers inside of a courthouse, McCune said.

"In Mingo County, the Public Defender of the 30th Judicial Circuit, is also the largest law firm, with combined experience in criminal defense of 65 plus years," she said.

McCune asked the Mingo County Commission and Williamson City Council to pass resolutions recognizing the national day during regular meetings this month. Both the County Commission and City Council read and approved proclamations in favor of the day.

She said states were required to provide legal representation to people who can't afford it due to a 1963 Supreme Court decision, unanimously ruling poor people have a constitutional right to an attorney when faced with prison.

The case, Gideon vs. Wainwright, surrounded Clarence Earl Gideon, a poor drifter accused of felony theft in Florida. Gideon represented himself at his first trial and was later convicted. After his trial was determined unconstitutional, Gideon was given an attorney and during his second trial, was acquitted.

McCune noted West Virginia has recognized the constitutional right of criminal defendants since 1863, a century before the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-6497.

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