"Death penalty attorneys in Louisiana in short supply," is Paul Murphy's report for WWL-TV. Here's an extended excerpt:
The case against the seven people accused in the Aug. 16 shooting of four St. John Parish deputies is proceeding through the court system as investigators continue to build what prosecutors hope will be an air-tight case.
Two of the suspects, 24-year-old Brian Lyn Smith and 28-year-old Kyle David Joekel, are accused of two counts each of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of deputies Brandon Neilsen and Jeremy Triche.
Wednesday, Joekel is expected to appear in court as a judge attempts to appoint his new attorney.
Smith's attorney Richard Bourke from the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center said right now there is a shortage of lawyers available to handle this kind of work.
"If the district attorney indicts someone on first-degree murder and is seeking the death penalty, there is going to be a problem finding a lawyer almost anywhere in the state because the system is full," said Bourke.
Eyewitness News legal analyst Chick Foret said Louisiana law ensures death penalty defendants get proper representation.
"Someone who is declared indigent has to have two attorneys appointed by the court who have previously been qualified to handle capital cases," said Foret.
Bourke said there are about 120 death penalty cases in the pipeline in Louisiana.
While rare in New Orleans, right now Baton Rouge has about 30 capital murder cases pending.
"Baton Rouge is in a real crisis of representation," said Bourke. "They've got more capital cases pending than anywhere in the state. The local public defender in Baton Rouge doesn't have the money to put lawyers on all of those cases."
Bourke says the state Indigent Defender Board is also running out of money to pay for death penalty defense.
Related posts are in the indigent defense index.