The case against a Deer Park man accused of murdering a witness in an assault case against him continues to drain funding from Spokane County coffers – even though the trial is being held in Stevens County.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno came before Spokane County commissioners to request additional financial assistance in order to pay legal expenses for a pair of attorneys provided to Christopher H. Devlin, who is alleged to have killed a 52-year-old Chattaroy man.
The case was initially filed in Spokane County because the body of Daniel D. Heily was found near Deer Park. But a co-defendant said Heily was killed instead in Stevens County. Since crimes were believed to have been committed in two counties, the defendants had their choice on where they could be tried.
In any case, even though the trial will be held in Stevens County in June, Spokane County’s legal team is footing the bill for Devlin’s defense.
“Well, I’m here to ask for money,” Moreno told commissioners, adding that the $250,000 they gave her last year would not be enough.
The commissioners agreed – at county CEO Marshall Farnell’s suggestion -- to allocate $100,000 from the reserve fund for now and promised to consider giving over more next fall, if necessary.
“That way we don’t tie up the budget,” Farnell said.
Public defense is typically utilized when someone charged with a crime cannot pay for his or her own defense. The cost is exponentially higher in death-penalty cases. The Devlin case qualifies because Heily was a state witness.
At this time, Spokane County does not have any attorneys qualified to handle death-penalty cases, so they must be brought in from elsewhere, Moreno said.
While efforts are being made to get Spokane County defenders the necessary training, the cost – and need – of using the contracted lawyers continues despite the fact the county had a $1.2 million deficit going into 2010.
“For me, there’s no way we would not fund this,” he said. “It’s a requirement.”
Spokane County has spent tens of thousands of dollars on defense lawyers that are qualified for death-penalty cases. And while there were plenty of questions as to why Stevens County was not picking up the tab, Moreno said she’s “already looked into it.”
“I’m open to ideas,” she said.
In the Devlin case, Spokane County prosecutors filed their intent to seek the death penalty in August 2008. Devlin is charged with shooting Heily the night before the man was to testify against Devlin in a second-degree assault trial. The victim in that case was also Heily.
Carl A. Hoskins, who is believed to have been Devlin’s accomplice, has also benefited from Spokane County defense.
The commissioners gave their final approval at their regular 2 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.
In other news, the commissioners approved $5,000 for law-enforcement consultant David Bennett to bring in an out-of-state prosecutor to review the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office. Bennett has reported that the office, which is overseen by Steve Tucker, often misses the 72-hour deadline to charge suspects with crimes after arrests.