There was legal fighting on both sides of the Mississippi River Thursday for accused serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. From West Baton Rouge parish, Lee is back in court for a battle over DNA evidence, and on the east side a new trial date has been set for Lee, plus a set back from the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
September 13th is the new start date for the Derrick Todd Lee trial that decision coming this morning but yesterdays victory for the defense in getting the trial delayed was short-lived as they suffer a set back on the funding issue. The First Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a district court decision that the defense has enough money to defend Lee.
Louisiana's First Circuit Court of Appeal had some strong words about the public defender's request for more money to defend Derrick Todd Lee. Judge Brady Fitzsimmons writes, "This defendant is not entitled to the best defense that money can buy based simply on media attention."
"I agree with the First Circuit," says District Attorney Doug Moreau. "Nobody is entitled to that kind of funding level. Nobody in the history of mankind I think would be entitled to what they are requesting."
Adequate funding is one of the reasons that the trial was delayed. Mike Mitchell claims he needs multiple experts to defend Lee, but the court of appeal says he is only entitled to an adequate defense. Judge Fitzsimmons says, "The indigent defendant seems to be receiving a reasonable defense similar to the type of defense available to a middle class working person. Few middle class folks could afford the types of additional experts and fees requested by the indigent in this case."
Moreau says, "I think what the First Circuit is saying is what is reasonable under the circumstances."
But the funding issue may hit a snag when it gets to the Supreme Court. Louisiana's Supreme Court Chife Justice Pascal Calogero is a member of a task force investigating the state's system for representing Louisiana's poor in criminal cases. Earlier this week Chief Justice Calogero is quoted as saying that a lack of funding has made it impossible to litigate capital crimes. He also said he "could not guarantee if any conviction could withstand a constitutional challenge alleging inadequate representation due to under-funding public defenders."
Meanwhile, a West Baton Rouge judge ruled that DNA evidence against Lee can be used in his trial for the murder of LSU grad student Geralyn Desoto. Presiding Judge Robin Free also granted the prosecution access to Geralyn's telephone and medical records, however, a request for Geraylyn's medical records was denied.
Prosecutors say they requested the phone records because they plan to argue Geralyn's husband called on the two-way radio on her Nextel phone during her attack. Prosecutors claim that scared Geralyn's attacker away before he could rape her.
Judge Free says his goal now is to make sure his trial doesn't get delayed at the last minute like the East Baton Rouge trial. Judge Free plans to meet with attorneys every week until the August 6th trial date to try and keep everything on track.
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