The Herald Bulletin

April 23, 2014

Editorial: Court ruling helps control inmate trial costs


The Herald Bulletin

---- — 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.

From most Hoosiers’ perspective, state prisons — while an unfortunate reflection of the impact of crime — provide jobs in local communities. But they can be financial burdens on the budgets of the counties in which the prisons are located.

However, the appellate court acknowledged that counties have no control if a prisoner is placed in that county.

The ruling will assist communities like Madison County control their court costs.

Doing the time for doing a crime is a well-known axiom. There are still endless consequences of becoming a felon. Now, however, Madison and similar counties have support in reducing some of the additional costs of crime to this community.

 

More online To read a recent Herald Bulletin news article about the decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals, visit heraldbulletin.com and search for "appeals court OKs."