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Funding provided for expert witness in second-degree murder trial

Last Modified: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:16 AM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Funding for expert witnesses in Barbara Vincent’s second-degree murder case has been provided.

Walt Sanchez, an attorney representing the Calcasieu Public Defenders Office, presented a $6,000 check to the court Wednesday. An extra $3,000 is also available, District Defender Harry Fontenot said.

Prosecutors had asked for financial information from the state Public Defender Board. Even though the money was going to be provided, prosecutors previously asked Judge David Ritchie to order the board to disclose its financial records because indigent defense is an ongoing issue. Ritchie agreed and granted the request.

Some financial information was presented Tuesday. Ritchie also ordered the nine non-profit organizations the board funds to provide records of leases, budgets, financial reports to the board, contracts, audits and a list of contracts that led to funding.

“I want to see the bank statements,” said prosecutor Hugo Holland, who represented the state along with Carla Sigler.

Barbara Vincent and William Vincent are accused of killing William Vincent’s 5-year-old daughter, Savannah, in 2008. Funding debates have delayed the case. Barbara Vincent is represented by private attorney Leah White, but White has asked for $9,000 for expert witnesses. Fontenot said the money was paid from the local Public Defenders Office.

The money was not available when White initially made the request because the Calcasieu Public Defenders Office was struggling financially, but is now on better ground, said Jay Dixon, who was the area’s previous district defender and is now head of the Public Defender Board. The state board does not have power to tell individual districts how to spend money, he said.

The local Public Defenders Office receives about 40 percent of its budget from the state board, while the other 60 percent comes from local fees, mostly through traffic tickets, Fontenot said.

Since 2011, public defenders around the state have been appointed to 600,000 cases, Dixon said.

The state board gets $33 million annually from the state board — $17 million is divvied up among the 42 local districts, $13 million goes to the nine non-profit organizations and $3 million is used to finance the board’s operation, Dixon said.

Some of the non-profit organizations specialize in capital defense and some in appeals.

Around $9 million of the $17 million funds capital defense, Dixon said. There are about 90 people around the state facing the death penalty, he said.

Holland, along with District Attorney John DeRosier, have said that they believe that such a large portion of the money is being used toward capital defense so that the death-penalty becomes too expensive of an option to pursue.

“It’s the position of the state that the funding crisis is one intentionally created by the state indigent defense board, not Jay, but members of the board,” Holland said.

Dixon said capital defense is just expensive.

“They don’t really have a choice,” he said. “Capital litigation is the most closely scrutinized and are the cases that courts are most quick to reverse.”

Many experts are needed and the Supreme Court requires a lead attorney, a second-chair attorney, a fact investigator and a mitigation investigator, Dixon said.

Posted By: Carla Lejeune On: 6/19/2014

Title: Hugo Holland-Tainted ADA FACT!

Isn't Hugo Holland the former ADA that was forced to resign from North West Louisiana? Shreveport area? For something to do with guns? The DA up there denied knowledge of that deal and Hugo Holland along with another ADA resigned amist a scandal. What is he doing down here? Don't we have enough going on at the DA's office?

Posted By: Jacobin On: 6/19/2014

Title: Is our DA drunk? His play on words is insane

Last I checked doesn't the STATE bring forth death penalty cases? Nice play on words DA John Derossier. Fortunately this parish is not as stupid as you think and most of us read straight through your nonsense. I will be glad the day you are out of office. Yes you have someone running against you, and yes he has a shot a winning.

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