The Birth of Public Defense in Memphis

It was 1915 and a white woman is found dead. The suspect is a black man who had worked on the family’s farm. This murder, the trial and what happened after led to the founding of the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office in 1917. This makes it the third oldest public defense office in the country. Watch this video to hear the story and see why Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas called public defense the “essence of justice.”