Green Bay man’s murder-for-hire case highlights challenges state public defender’s office still faces

In this case, the public defender's office is looking for a private attorney to take the work
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 8:35 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A shortage of lawyers qualified to accept violent crime cases in Brown County is causing a headache for the state public defender’s office.

The issue came up on Thursday in court where a Green Bay man has sat in jail for two months without a lawyer on a charge that he tried killing his girlfriend from jail.

Thirty-five-year-old Luis Angel DeJesus-Gonzalez appeared before a court commissioner via zoom facing a charge of conspiracy to commit first degree intentional homicide.

According to court documents, investigators say an informant notified officers DeJesus-Gonzalez wanted his girlfriend killed. There were several secret recordings that captured those conversations.

The 35 year old is already in the Brown County Jail on other charges.

RELATED: Prosecutors: Green Bay man plotted girlfriend’s murder from jail

DeJesus-Gonzalez reportedly provided an informant with pictures of his girlfriend, her home and work address, a description of her car, and her mother’s address.

He has sat in jail for two months on that charge and a court commissioner on Thursday discussed the difficulty of the state public defender’s office in finding an attorney.

“The most recent update I have is dated yesterday in the case they made 166 contacts with private bar attorneys in an effort to locate counsel for Mr. DeJesus-Gonzalez,” Brown County Circuit Court Commissioner Chad Resar said. “There’s a limited number of attorneys who are winning to take cases at the public defender’s office at the rate of pay provided.”

Green Bay’s public defender’s office covers Brown, Door, and Kewaunee counties.

Last year, Brown County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Buckley called the agency a “failure.”

After learning of DeJesus-Gonzalez’s case and his difficulty in finding an attorney, Buckley told Action 2 News there are still ongoing problems with the state’s public defenders office and it’s the state’s responsibility not the county to find a lawyer.

“This is not something we’re taking lightly,” Adam Plotkin, legislative liaison for the state public defender’s office, said. “It’s something we’re dealing with all day, every day in the 72 counties statewide.”

Plotkin says there are only four lawyers qualified in Brown County to try homicide cases and about a dozen in Northeast Wisconsin. There is a conflict with DeJesus-Gonzalez’s case that bars any of the attorneys at the state public defender’s office from taking the case. That is why they’re looking for a private attorney.

“This is an issue that is system wide. It is driven by compensation issues. It’s driven by workload issues. It’s driven by just the lack of attorneys willing to accept these appointments,” Plotkin said.

According to Plotkin, there are currently 16 attorneys in the Green Bay office covering the three counties of Brown, Door, and Kewaunee.

If the public-defender’s office can’t find Dejesus-Gonzalez a lawyer, the county is required to appoint him one at local taxpayer expense.

He’s next scheduled to appear in court on August 19 at 10:30 a.m.

If a person has been in jail for more than 60 days, a Brown County commissioner will send their case to a circuit court judge, who then appoints them a lawyer at a rate of $100 per hour, which comes from the county budget.

Action 2 News previously reported that the state public defender’s office pays a rate of $70 per hour for lawyer’s handling its cases.

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