- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Public Defenders Board is asking a state appeal court to overturn a ruling that it must pay a nonprofit group to defend clients facing a possible death penalty.

Judges in Caddo and Sabine parishes ordered the board to pay Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana Inc.

The public defenders board contends that district judges lack authority to make it fund the nonprofit, The Times reports (https://bit.ly/1tQVJRz).

The board assigns indigent clients facing the death penalty to contract groups and attorneys. Capital Assistance’s contract ended June 30, and the board stopped paying the agency.

“We don’t have funding anymore and it’s caused me to lose the majority of my staff. It’s real hard to do what were supposed to do with the assets that we have,” Executive Director Richard Goorley said.

Jay Dixon, the state public defender, said his agency had received indications there were problems with the representation Capital Assistance was providing. However, he said the litigation prevents him from giving any details.

Local prosecutors and some judges have said that the defense board’s refusal to pay is delaying capital trials.

“Each time the public defender board tells one of these lawyers ‘Well, we don’t have any money for you right now,’ the lawyer asks for a continuance of the trial. And so, you can see that the upshot - the result of all this is there’s no capital trials going on because nobody has any of the money they say they need,” said Dale Cox, first assistant district attorney for Caddo Parish.

First Judicial District Court Judge Brady O’Callaghan ordered the board in November to pay Capital Assistance Project attorneys for their representation of alleged child killer Kenneth Willis from June 30 until the board appointed a new attorney for him in November.

“The Louisiana Public Defender Board has given CAPOLA a Sisyphean dilemma. They demand CAPOLA’s representation but do not adequately fund them so they may effectively represent Kenneth Willis,” O’Callaghan wrote. “By simultaneously requiring CAPOLA’s continued participation while also refusing to adequately ensure funding for the defense of Kenneth Willis, they have frustrated progress of the trial - a disservice to both the defendant and to the state.”

The public defendant board argued that the nonprofit had $778,450 in reserves on June 30, and should have been using that money to represent the four indigent clients it had been assigned by the board.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com


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