From Georgia, the Macon Telegraph reports, "Latest invoice for death penalty case concerns Houston commission chair." It's written by Becky Purser.
A bill for the county’s share of the capital murder defense of two Eatonton men accused of slaying a Warner Robins man for his car raised a red flag when it came across the desk of Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker.
“I can see this expense getting out of hand as far as local governments are concerned,” Stalnaker said.
The $18,936.88 bill from the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council also drew the ire of Commissioner Tom McMichael.
The bill is for the county’s share of the indigent defense of Joshua Dupree Rounsoville, 24, and Stewart Calvert Brannon, 22, who are accused of the August 2008 fatal shooting of Maurice Smith, a 25-year-old maintenance worker for the Houston County Board of Education.
The total cost for the defense of Rounsoville so far has been $188,935.71, with the total cost for Brannon at $44,718.10, according to figures provided to the county by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. Brannon initially hired his own attorney but ran out of money, and a capital defender was assigned to him, Houston County Superior Court records show.
Under state law, the county is responsible for 25 percent of the defense expense once the state agency has expended $150,000 and then for 50 percent of the cost once the agency has spent $250,000.
For the first time since the county has been billed for its portion of Rounsoville’s expense, the cost of defending him and Brannon were lumped together -- the first red flag for Stalnaker.
Thus far, the cost for defending Rounsoville and Brannon totals $233,653.81, and that’s significant, Stalnaker noted, because the combined cost nears the $250,000 threshold for when the county becomes responsible for 50 percent of new costs. Also, the county had not been incurring an expense for Brannon, whose case so far is well below the $150,000 threshold, Stalnaker said.
Earlier coverage of Georgia indigent defense issues begins at the link.
From South Dakota, "Public defender dismissed amid murder cases," is by John Hult for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. It's a lengthy examination of the role of public defender in capital cases, involving models from other states.
Dwight Ree could spend his entire adult life in prison if he’s convicted of murder. James McVay could be executed.
The dismissal of a veteran public defender a little more than a month ago leaves both men to fight those ultimate penalties in court without the aid of their primary and most familiar advocate.
The ouster of Jeff Larson could have far-reaching implications for McVay, Ree and the dozens of others the 57-year-old represented when he found his things piled up outside the door of the public defender office the week of Dec. 12.
It also indirectly could affect hundreds of other defendants because the young lawyers he worked with no longer will have Larson’s 30 years of experience to guide them.
Representing clients in death penalty cases can be challenging and emotionally taxing. Many states have strict requirements for public defenders, and many law firms put only their most experienced lawyers on such cases. Asking less experienced lawyers to take on the cases could slow the system and raise issues about the quality of their defense.
Larson’s departure comes amid six unresolved homicide cases in Minnehaha County, all of which are being defended with county resources, including the two death penalty cases. It’s an unusually high number for the county.