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'What a country!'
By Daniel J. Derienzo
A Gideon Moment columns.
From 1991 to 1998, I had the pleasant experience of serving as Public
Defender for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) on
the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota. The CNMI (located near Guam), is
a United States commonwealth and is part of the Ninth Circuit. Many of
the defendants, however, are from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines
and other Pacific Rim Countries and are unfamiliar with Gideon v. Wainwright.
One of the wonderful aspects of working abroad as a public defender is
introducing rights and freedoms, which we sometimes take for granted, to
people who are unfamiliar with the protections of the United States
Constitution. The concept of an attorney, much less an appointed
attorney at no cost, is foreign to many of the peoples living and
working on Saipan. In fact, the concept of being presumed innocent was
so unique and novel that I often had to spend hours with many clients
convincing them of their own innocence.
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