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Draconian cuts in the budget for lawyers who represent indigent defendants have come back to haunt the Orleans Parish criminal justice system. Upwards of 500 indigent defendants may have been locked up without the benefit of an assigned defense attorney over the past year, according to a brief filed in the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
My husband, Robbie James Riva, who currently resides at Calipatria State Prison, has maintained his innocence for the past 11 years. After his appeal was denied in 2009 and there was no more money to pay an attorney, I decided to take it on myself. We put our minds together, our strength, our love and we told each other we could do this and we did. He wrote his appeal himself with the documents I sent him.