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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Taxpayers pick up $13,519 tab in McCowan murder appeal"

Bob Kasarda reports today in the NWI Times in a story that begins:

VALPARAISO | A private attorney was hired to file an appeal on behalf of convicted murderer Dustin McCowan, but not before taxpayers picked up the $13,519 bill for the lengthy court transcripts used in the challenge.

The 3,186 pages of transcripts were completed Aug. 19 at the request of his public defender. But private defense attorney Thomas Vanes entered the case 11 days later, according to the online docket of the Indiana Court of Appeals.

McCowan had been represented by a public defender after it was determined at the time of his sentencing in March that he did not have the resources to hire a private attorney. The county-funded legal services included copies of the transcripts, which are the most expensive the court has seen.

There does not appear to be any wrongdoing in the decision to hire a private attorney after receiving the publicly funded transcripts since 21-year-old McCowan has retained his pauper status while just starting out on his 60-year prison sentence.

More from the story:
McCowan, who has maintained his innocence, is seeking a new trial or sentencing before a new judge in part, by challenging the technique used by investigators to place his cellphone at or near key locations at the time of the crime, according to the appellate brief filed by Vanes.

The technique did not involve GPS technology, but rather a new system Verizon had in place at the time, Vanes said.

"Verizon itself could not and would not vouch for its reliability," he argued.

The appeal also claims it was improper to introduce the cellphone records because it violated a state constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Police obtained the phone records with an emergency request and yet should have had a warrant, according to the appeal.

ILB readers may recall this post from Nov. 10th of this year, where a criminal defense attorney successfully appealed to the COA "to find her client indigent, so that he can obtain a copy of the trial transcript free of charge."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 8, 2013 10:01 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts