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Jason Reeves was convicted of raping and killing 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen. (American Press Archives)

Jason Reeves was convicted of raping and killing 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen. (American Press Archives)

Judge: Reeves outside attorney shouldn't be paid with public funds

Last Modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 7:36 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Judge Mike Canaday ruled Thursday that an outside attorney hired to represent Jason Reeves should not be paid with public funds.

The Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana hired Alan M. Freedman as outside counsel to help represent Reeves, who was convicted in 2004 of raping and killing 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen on Nov. 12, 2001.

Reeves was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. He is represented by Kathy Kelly, an attorney with the capital project, and Freedman, who is based in Evanston, Ill., with the Midwest Center for Justice.

Canaday said Freedman should not be paid with public funds because Reeves does not have a constitutional right to choose his own counsel. He said the issue revolved around whether Freedman was hired or appointed and paid with public funds. Because Reeves could not afford his own defense, public defenders were appointed to him. Reeves, who is imprisoned at Angola State Penitentiary, appeared in court via video.

Defense attorneys said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Gary Clements, the head of the capital project, said Freedman was hired because the center was short of attorneys. He said the case had moved in a “timely fashion” because of Freedman.

Canaday said he understood Clements’ argument, but said his concern was “using public funds to hire outside counsel when there are inside mechanisms in place to take care of that.”

Clements said “it just comes down to time.” The capital project is representing 72 men and women around the state, he said.

Prosecutor Carla Sigler argued that “everybody who works for the state has an increased case load. That’s not unique to post-conviction relief.”

Canaday asked Kelly how much Freedman was getting paid. She did not give an exact amount, but said he was getting paid by the hour, although it was less than a salaried attorney with the capital project.

Sigler said the Supreme Court had ruled that defendants do not have a constitutional right to two post-conviction attorneys.

Reeves was scheduled to be put to death Aug. 15, but was granted a stay of execution.

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