A court in Portland, Oregon, has dismissed the bias crime case against a man accused of kicking an Asian American woman and spewing racial slurs at her last year.
A Multnomah County judge dropped the case against Peter Eschright without prejudice last week, explaining that the man was not assigned a public defense attorney “in a timely manner,” according to KPTV. Although Eschright’s case has been dropped, the charges against him can still be filed again in the future. Eschright allegedly kicked an Asian American mother on both shins while walking past her on a TriMet bus in the area of Southeast 52nd Ave. and Foster Road on Jan. 22, 2021. The man also allegedly hurled racial slurs at the victim, mentioning COVID-19 in regard to the victim’s skin color and race.
The woman, who was with her son at the time, did not require medical assistance following the incident, but the attack reportedly left her with “some trouble walking.”
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Eschright was taken into custody shortly after the incident and was charged with two counts of first-degree bias crime and one count of fourth-degree felony assault. He reportedly failed to appear in court for his arraignment multiple times. Since his court dates kept on getting pushed back, he was not assigned a defense attorney, which led to the dismissal of his case.
The American Bar Association released a report on Jan. 21 stating that the Oregon Office of Public Defender Services (OPDS) only has 1,296 full-time-equivalent (FTE) attorneys for its adult criminal and juvenile caseloads, which accounts for just 31% of the number of FTE attorneys required
to “provide reasonably effective assistance of counsel pursuant to prevailing professional norms to its adult criminal and juvenile clients.”
“There is a shortage of public defenders due to decades of neglect by the state of Oregon and all three branches when it comes to public defense,” Carl Macpherson, Metropolitan Public Defender’s executive director, told KPTV.
“It has a significant impact on anyone who is being charged in that there are not enough lawyers to represent the individuals that the state is charging,” Macpherson added. “If the state is going to charge someone, then they need to provide enough resources and enough attorneys to be able to represent every single person that they charge.”
Macpherson suggested several solutions to the ongoing issue, mentioning firstly that as both a state and community, “we need to prioritize mental health and substance abuse services among other services for individuals that we are bringing into the system that do not need to be there.”
“Secondly: prioritizing prosecution,” Macpherson continued. “What are we choosing to prosecute, not processing low-level offenses, and not prosecuting people that need services, not the criminal legal system. Third: requiring more resources for public defense. If we are going to try to maintain this system that we currently have, you have to resource it better.”