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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Price of justice for David Camm: $3.3 million and rising fast"

Really eye-opening story today, illustrating the high costs of the death penalty to one Indiana county, by Grace Schneider of the Louisville Courier-Journal. The lengthy story begins:

The cost of trying David Camm in the murders of his wife and two children already totals $3.3 million — and Floyd County officials estimate a third trial, planned in 2013, could bump up that price tag by another $1 million.

It’s a commitment, they say, that has exacted a heavy toll on the cash-strapped county.

“You lay out a hundred thousand here and a hundred thousand there ... and it’s gone over $3 million plus,” said Ted Heavrin, Floyd’s police chief and the county council president who left office Monday. “That’s a big impact.”

Already, the county, which has a $15.3 million annual budget, has been unable to give raises to employees, except police and firefighters, for six years. And every bridge and road repair “has to be done on an emergency basis,” Heavrin said.

To pay the steady stream of bills, Heavrin said the county has drawn money from riverboat revenue sharing, economic-development income taxes and a rainy-day fund, where $1 million in reserves has been drained to nothing in the last year.

Despite receiving an average of $210,000 annually in payments since 2002 from a state program that reimburses counties for public-defender costs, including Camm-related expenses, it’s nothing compared with the costs incurred through Camm and all of the other criminal cases.

County Commissioner President Steve Bush said this month that his panel may approach Special Judge Jonathan Dartt, who is overseeing the case, to ask for help keeping costs in line.

“You can track back to when this county started to go downhill” financially, Heavrin said. “It started with the Camm trials.”

Later in the story:
With each trial, the price has ticked higher. Floyd spent about $900,000 for the first trial and $1 million for Camm’s second trial. Boney’s trial cost about $80,100, according to county auditor’s records.

The total surged beyond $3 million because of appeals by Camm and Boney and a successful effort in 2011 by Camm’s defense team, led by Indianapolis-based Richard Kammen, to have Henderson removed from the case, according to Floyd records.

The state appeals court ruled that Henderson’s decision to sign a book deal about the case before the appeals were exhausted posed a conflict of interest that warranted his removal. That will only add to the tab for Floyd taxpayers.

For example, the county has paid $27,500 to Indianapolis law firm Frost Brown Todd to defend Henderson against a state ethics complaint filed by Camm’s defense team. Floyd’s commissioners have defended the expense, saying the complaint was a tactic by Camm’s lawyers to remove Henderson.

There is much, much more. Great story.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 3, 2013 01:20 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts