John Oliver: If you're forced to rely on "hideously broken" public defender system, "you're f*cked"

"If I only had 7 minutes to prepare for this show," he said, "I'd be listing Muppets in order of f*ckability"


Scott Eric Kaufman
September 14, 2015 4:03PM (UTC)

On "Last Week Tonight" Sunday, host John Oliver discussed the plight of those forced to rely on "the attorneys provided for you" if you can't afford one -- public defenders -- and how the poor are being "charged for access to a hideously broken system."

He noted that the average amount of time public defenders in New Orleans spend on cases is seven minutes, and that "if I had seven minutes to prepare for this show, I'd be desperately trying to fill time by listing the Muppets in order of fuckability" -- which, of course, he proceeded to do. (Spoiler alert: Sam the Eagle topped the list, because "you know he's into some freaky stuff.")

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Oliver later discussed the ordeal of a Floridian who was arrested on a traffic violation and racked up over $600 in court fees in order plead "no contest." "They may as well as charged him an irony fee," Oliver said, "because as it turns out, being poor in Florida is really fucking expensive."

This "meet 'em and plead 'em" system -- in which up to 95 percent of cases are pleaded out because public defenders are often tasked with over 1,000 felony cases per year -- has created a situation in which constitutionally protected Miranda rights are only being upheld in theory, not practice. With the assistance of some famous television detectives from "The Wire," "Law & Order," and "Person of Interest," Oliver demonstrated what a real Miranda warning should entail -- and the results are ugly, to say the least.

Watch the entire segment below via HBO.

'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' Is Legally a Church


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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