The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

April 23, 2014

Editorial: Court ruling helps control inmate trial costs

Do the crime in one county and do the time in a state prison, which might be located in another county. Criminals are familiar with this action and consequence.

But who pays the costs when the prisoner commits another offense while in prison? And who pays when the prisoner appeals the case to a higher court?

Of course, in the long run, taxpayers cover the costs of trials and appeals.

But a recent case helped clarify the breakdown of responsibilities for the actual bill.

In July 2011, Jeffrey Cook was in the Pendleton Correctional Facility — in Madison County — when he and another prisoner stabbed to death another inmate who was a rival gang member. Cook was charged with murder among other counts. He was appointed a public defender because he was indigent. At trial in Madison Circuit Court 6, Cook was found guilty. Judge Dennis D. Carroll sentenced Cook to 70 years.

The trial court ordered the Indiana Department of Correction to pay $23,488 for Cook’s defense.

And when it came to Cook’s appeal, Carroll asked the state auditor’s office to pay $5,232.35 for attorney fees. The auditor balked, saying the state was only responsible for the costs of trials, not appeals.

All this went properly to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled in Madison County’s favor. In essence, the court noted that the Indiana Department of Correction runs numerous facilities throughout the state. Madison County has three of those facilities.

Because crimes tend to happen in these prisons, the state also pays for a deputy prosecutor to handle those cases. Recognizing that, the Indiana Legislature has made the state responsible for paying for deputy prosecutors, paying for a public defender at trial. And it’s the state Department of Correction that decides whether a convicted felon goes to a minimum, medium or maximum facility.

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