[Megan] On the legal system, a reader writes:

Generallly, there is a great disparity between the competency of prosecutors and public defenders, and judges in State systems versus those in the Federal system. Federal prosecutors in cities like Chicago, where I am from, Los Angeles, New York etc. are often educated at the best schools in the country and many have clerked for federal judges including Supreme Court judges.  Most of the attorneys in Chicago, when I was there, had come from lucrative jobs in the private sector but preferred the work as an Assistant United States Attorney. (In recent years however, many of the best prosecutors have left the offices throughout the United States because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, politics were injected into the system.) Our opponents in the high profile trials are often defended by the “best” defense counsel that money can buy and lose as often or more often then the federal public defenders.  The federal public defenders, like their counter parts have similar educational backgrounds and significant resources – and many federal prosecutors recognize that some of the federal defenders do a better job for their client then the high paid well known private counsel.  

What is true however is that at the State level there are many problems.   The prosecutors are often not as well educated, politics is the rule, they are overworked and they, like the public defenders, have limited resources.  The state system is dedicated to getting as many cases through it as possible thus the prosecutors and public defenders are not known for writing skills and write few substantive motions before, during or after a case. On the other hand, in cases of any significance, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys spend much of their time writing and responding to thoughtful motions. This is why the legal tragedies over the years emanated from the flawed systems that are found in so many states. High paid defense counsel can overwhelm a state prosecutor with motions and the state judge gives these attorneys leeway and credibility that are not warranted. Additionally public defenders must deal with prosecutors who are not there to see that justice is done but rather to win re-election. In sum the Duke case never would have been brought in federal court, OJ would have been convicted ( the judge would not have been intimidated and awed) and it is very likely all those men who have been released from death row would not have been there in the first place had any of the cases been federal cases.