Sunday, February 6, 2011

The cost of Irwin's trial

February 6, 2011 - By MARY ANN GREIER (
LISBON - Columbiana County residents paid to prosecute convicted killer Andrew Irwin twice for one murder - not a cheap task - but Prosecutor Robert Herron said its the unmeasurable costs that really add up.
"The most considerable cost here was the tragedy to the many lives he inflicted," Herron said after the sentencing.
He was referring not only to the victim, 21-year-old Emily Foreman, but also to her family members and friends, including the 7-year-old daughter left behind by her death.
The defendant's family also suffered. Irwin's own mother had to testify at length about how he treated her, how he was shooting up drugs in her van and how he stole a check from her purse.
Herron said there's also the untold, uncompensated manhours for his staff members in preparing for the case, not once, but twice, working nights, weekends and holidays while still taking care of their other cases and the day-in, day-out prosecution of criminals in Common Pleas Court.
Besides Herron, the staff working on the case included three attorneys, two investigators and a victim witness coordinator. There's also the clerical staff which prepared documents necessary for trial.
"It requires a pretty extraordinary commitment by staff members when you're involved in a case like this, extremely capable attorneys willing to put whatever it takes to get justice in a case like this," he said.
And it's still not over. Irwin, 29, has the right to appeal, again at the expense of state taxpayers, all while eating food, wearing clothes and living under a roof all provided at state expense. If he fails at the appellate level, he can approach the Supreme Court of Ohio. Each time he appeals, that's more time spent by members of the prosecutor's staff preparing briefs, answers and motions.
The cost bill detail from the Clerk of Courts office for the Irwin murder case listed a total of $6,114 to date for fees from the Clerk of Courts, sheriff fees and a category known as "other" which covers notary fees for affidavits, steno fees and witness fees. These fees started with his indictment in 2007.
There are many factors, though, associated with prosecuting criminals, so it's difficult to put an exact figure on the cost for one particular case. Not all costs are reflected on the cost bill.
Cost can depend on whether the case was tried before a jury or to the court, the number of jurors involved, the length of the trial, the number of witnesses called, whether there was a jury view, whether defense counsel was hired by a defendant or appointed at state expense, and whether a special prosecutor was used due to a conflict for the county prosecutor.
For example, in the murder case against Jack "J.C." Amato Jr., there was no trial since he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter for killing his wife in 2007, so there were no jury fees.
However, there was a special prosecutor appointed to the chase, Lynn Grimshaw of Wheelersburg, due to a conflict for the county prosecutor's office. Amato's father, Dr. Jack Amato, serves on the county health board, which relies on the county prosecutor's office for legal representation.
County commissioners paid the cost for Grimshaw, which totaled $18,112, but according to Herron, the fee could have been much higher. Several hearings were handled via telephone conference, meaning less time and mileage. Wheelersburg is located about five hours away in the southern part of Ohio.
"He was extraordinarily generous with the county," Herron said.
In that case, Amato had hired counsel, so there was no cost to the county for his legal representation. The plea deal struck was jointly recommended by both sides, so there was also no appeal filed.
Herron said the prosecutor's office normally pays for a bus for jurors to ride if there's a jury view, where they're taken to the scene of a crime to get an idea of the geography, with the idea of getting reimbursed by the defendant, which in reality doesn't happen.
For the Irwin prosecution, the jury from the first trial didn't go on a jury view, but the jury from the recent trial did, at an estimated cost of $500 for the bus and a driver to travel from Lisbon to Liverpool Township.
Jurors get paid $20 a day for their service when they report, even those who show up and aren't selected for a trial. For the first Irwin trial in March 2007, the jury cost was $1,800 over a five-day span, with a smaller number of jurors ordered to report for jury selection. For the recent trial, the jury cost was $2,540 over a six-day span with a larger group ordered to report for the selection process.
Witnesses subpoenaed to testify for a hearing can also request payment, with $6 for half a day or $12 for a full day. They can also request mileage at a cost of 10 cents per mile. Witness fees for the first trial totaled about $60, with fees for the recent trial about $88.
For the first trial, Irwin had hired counsel. For the recent trial, he had appointed counsel at county expense. By law, the county must provide an attorney for criminal defendants considered indigent, without the financial means to pay for an attorney themselves. The county pays a contract of $405,500 per year to an organization known as the Criminal Defense Company (CDC), made up of local attorneys, to serve as public defenders for indigent criminal defendants in Common Pleas Court, county Municipal Court, East Liverpool Municipal Court and county Juvenile Court.
Attorneys receive varying amounts from the CDC, depending on which court they serve and the number of cases they pull.
Likely the biggest single expense related to the Irwin case was the cost of housing him at the county jail. From the time of his initial arrest to the time he left for prison and returned for a few hearings, he had spent at least 224 days in the county jail, give or take a few days. In 2006 and 2007, the per diam fee the county had to pay for housing prisoners was $52 per day per prisoner, meaning the cost for housing Irwin the first time was more than $11,600.
When he returned from prison to face his second trial, he spent about 310 days in the county jail. The county's cost now ranges from $58 per day per prisoner to $73 per day per prisoner, depending on how many inmates are being housed for the county on a particular day. Based on those fees, the cost for housing Irwin the second time cost at least $17,980 but may have been more.

1 comment:

kim said...

wow...where do I begin? they got it right! But let's not forget the whole what if's...cost is so big, my granddughter lost the most, I am so thankful for her
Dad and Robin, wow they are 2 wonderful people, nothing else to say, but I am going to say this us taxpayers get screwed all the time!!