Elizer Darris, an ACLU of Minnesota organizer and a former prison inmate, has been appointed to the state Board of Public Defense.
Gov. Tim Walz announced the appointment on Wednesday. “We’re happy to have him,” said State Public Defender Bill Ward.
Darris replaces Dennis Leary, who resigned before his full term was up, Ward said. Darris’ term is effective on Aug. 10 and runs through Jan. 2, 2023.
Darris was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 when he was 15 years old. He released in 2014. He has been an occasional presence at the state Capitol, where he has advocated for a restore-the-vote bill for felons and other causes.
Ward said that over the years people with criminal backgrounds have occasionally been members of the Public Defense Board. He said that Darris’ background will add an important new perspective to the seven-member panel.
Darris joins a board that also includes Chair Anna Restrovich Braun, Vice Chair Molly Jannetta, former Judge Helen Meyer, Mankato mediator Herb Kroon, Macalester College instructor Duchess Harris and Edina attorney Daniel S. Le.
The Public Defense Board consists of four members appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice and three appointed by the governor.
Its job is to recommend a legislative budget for state and district public defenders, and for the public defense corporations. Among other duties, it establishes conduct, operational and caseload standards for Minnesota’s public defenders.
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