Doug Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Joins NAPD Steering Committee
Tell the public defense community something about yourself?
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati School of Law in 1981, I started as a baby PD in Pueblo, Colorado in January of 1982. I handled a misdemeanor and juvenile docket. There were 5 attorneys in the office at the time and I quickly began handling all level of felonies as well (except death penalty cases). I left the CO system for 7 years but returned as the Office Head in our Pueblo Office in 1992. I ran that office for 13 years until I was appointed as a Chief Trial Deputy. Starting in 1987, I defended death cases across the state until my appointment in 2006 as the State Public Defender. I am married to Doyle Forrestal, who is the ED of the Colorado Behavioral Health Care Council.
Tell the community something about your organization?
The Office of the State Public Defender was created as a State agency in 1970. We have 21 trial offices across the state as well as an appellate office and our administrative office in Denver. We have 811 employees, including 480 attorneys across the state. Last year we had 170,000 active cases. We pride ourselves on client centered representation and litigation.
What are the major problems in public defense today?
Communication to our funders and others about the constitutionally mandated, effective and efficient, representation of the poor is a critical component of everything that we do. Without it, then workload (NEVER caseload) discussions are next to impossible. Being able to adequately explain that, while cutting budgets of agencies that represent the poor may leave few if any people complaining, it is a fundamental constitutional, governmental necessity to protect everyone’s liberty.
How useful has NAPD been for you and your organization?
Extremely useful, especially from the leaders who have answered my questions over the years and from those in NAPD that have “had my back” when I have reached out for help and support for and against criminal legislative proposals or rule changes. The webinars have also been great for our staff.
What would you like NAPD to focus on in 2018?
The cross section of behavioral health and the criminal un-justice system is at a crisis across our state and the nation. I hope NAPD takes a leadership role in offering solutions to locking up the addicted and those with mental health conditions.