Citizen Scholar Researching Inefficiencies of Public Defenders

Citizen Scholar Devin Heard, a sophomore Humanities Pre-Law and Human Resources and Labor Relations double major, is researching the inefficiencies of public defenders.

In his research, which he presented at the 2018 Citizen Scholars Showcase, Heard points out that public defenders, especially those working in predominately minority urban areas, have an overload of cases that leave them with insufficient time to individually focus on their clients’ needs.

“A lot of times, you don’t even get the chance to meet with your public defender until your court date…most of the time your public defender tells you what you’re going to do, and you end up giving in,” Heard said. “This means that very rarely do cases go to trial and very rarely do people have a fighting chance.”

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Heard with his research at the 2018 Citizen Scholars Showcase

Heard’s research is a continual project he is doing through the Citizen Scholars program. He plans to expand on this research in upcoming Citizen Scholars Showcases by delving into resolution options for these cases.

After Heard graduates in 2021, he hopes to go to Law School at Cornell University and is interested in Cornell’s Industrial Labor Relations Program. Heard currently is a member of Kappa Alpha Pi, a co-ed Pre-Law Professional Fraternity, and is an employee at MSU’s Law Library.

This past summer, he participated in a Pre-Law undergrad scholar program at the University of Wisconsin. During this four-week program, he completed courses similar to those that a first-year Law student would take, such as Criminal Law and Legal Writing and Analysis.

The program touched on how to get minorities integrated into the legal field and exposed Heard to the importance of standing out as a Law student. Heard plans to distinguish himself from other law students by balancing his professionalism with his creative side, focusing on endeavors outside of the Law field, and remaining a well-rounded individual.

Once you leave MSU, you should be doing something that makes a difference.

Being a well-rounded individual and making a difference is a value that the Citizen Scholars program has helped instill in Heard.  

"Once you leave MSU, you should be doing something that makes a difference,” Heard said. “Most people that come from the College of Arts & Letters and the liberal arts field are in jobs where they are of service. [The Citizen Scholars Program] does make you civically aware and more considerate. It’s easy to get lost in the college mindset of ‘I’m here to get my degree, get a good job, and leave,’ but in Citizen Scholars, you end up doing something that has an impact.”