Chicago Death Penalty Defenders Out of Money, Seek Dismissal

The Public Defender's capital unit in Chicago has requested a judge dismiss a death penalty case because they are out of funds. Without money to retain expert witnesses for their client who has serious mental issues and is facing the death penalty for a double homicide, they can't provide an adequate defense and comply with the Sixth Amendment's requirement of a fair trial.

Cost is becoming as much an argument against the death penalty as wrongful convictions. New Jersey lawmakers cited the financial burden as one reason for their decision to abolish capital punishment in 2007, and other states are wrestling with similar legislation.

Placek's motion is the first of its kind for the public defender's office but probably not the last, said Assistant Public Defender Julie Harmon, the office's capital case coordinator. But she denied it's a new legal tactic to remove the threat of the death penalty for clients.

The office is currently representing 120 clients facing the death penalty: [More...]

The fund pays for medical, mental health and other experts, depositions, transcripts, travel expenses for witnesses and other costs.

The public defender's 2009 allotment of $1.75 million was already exhausted this month, in large part because 60 percent of the money went to cover unpaid bills from 2008, Harmon said.

Prosecutors intend to oppose the request.

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    New Mexico Repealed the Death Penalty (none / 0) (#1)
    by tokin librul on Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 11:02:12 AM EST
    last month...

    there are only two prisoners now on Death Row.

    The Gov signed off for two reasons, the main one of which was, by his own account, economic. It was becoming too expensive to house inmates slated for death...

    May the Public Defender's office permit (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 12:59:19 PM EST
    the court and/or DA's office to audit the books?  Attorney client privilege?

    Marijane Placek ... (none / 0) (#3)
    by wystler on Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 02:22:58 PM EST
    ... is a real pitbull in court. Hard to imagine a stronger advocate for the indigent.

    I don't know what the law is in Illinois, (none / 0) (#4)
    by Mikeb302000 on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 11:55:08 AM EST
    but in about two seconds I can see that the man killed his girlfriend and the kids with a knife in what must have been an out of control rage. Only the rigid law-and-order types, the ones who believe everyone must be accountable for their actions could deny that that kind or inability to control the anger is tantamount to temporary insanity or diminished capacity or whatever term we need to call it.  The point is a guy like that, by the very nature of his crime should never face the death penalty, in any case.  So, I'm all for the innovative approach of this public defenders' office. Hats off to 'em and good luck.