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California

ACLU demanding change in how Fresno County courts handle death penalty cases

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The ACLU has expressed concern about the best way Fresno County is dealing with death penalty cases, notably given {that a} defendant has been with out an lawyer for greater than 4 months.

“The fact that he hasn’t had representation for four or five months is going to devastate the case,” stated authorized analyst Tony Capozzi.

Ger Lee is accused of planning a yard bloodbath in east Fresno in November 2019.

His capital homicide case is headed for trial, however Lee hasn’t had an lawyer since June.

Four folks died and 6 had been injured in the mass capturing at a Fresno residence three years in the past.

In January this 12 months, after presenting proof at a preliminary listening to, prosecutors determined to hunt the death penalty in opposition to three suspects – Porge Kue, Anthony Montes and Ger Lee.

Capozzi says the case is now at a essential investigative stage the place the ingredient of time performs a job.

“Witnesses die,” he stated. “The recollections of the witnesses are fading. It’s troublesome to search out witnesses when the case is delayed.”

But Lee’s court-appointed attorney withdrew from the case in June after trying and failing to get the Fresno County court system to change his pay structure.

According to the Judicial Conference of the United States, attorneys work more than 3,500 hours on the average death penalty case.

The case against Lee and his co-defendants is more complicated than most capital homicide cases, with the trial alone expected to last eight months.

Fresno County now pays attorneys a lump sum of up to $180,000 for capital cases that go to trial.

Lee’s former attorney says he calculated that he would only make $12 an hour while not being able to devote time to other cases.

“That’s simply, it is mainly suicide for my enterprise, is not it?” said defense attorney Michael Aed. “How’s enterprise going? I believe what we do not need is for folks to make choices about how to course of a death penalty case primarily based on a enterprise resolution.”

The ACLU sent a letter to the Fresno County court system this month calling for immediate changes.

The American Bar Association says the government should pay attorneys an hourly rate for capital cases, and many jurisdictions are doing so.

Federal courts, Alameda County and Contra Costa County all pay more than $200 an hour. Sacramento County pays $150 an hour.

Lee’s former attorney says the government will ultimately pay for a proper defense, whether it does it before or after the trial.

“If we attempt to lower prices on the entrance finish, that price can be recouped on the again finish when it comes again by the appeals system,” Aed said.

He says he’s willing to represent Lee again, but only if the pay is more reasonable.

Meanwhile, the ACLU says the county has already violated Lee’s constitutional right to legal counsel and the solution is to change the pay structure and take the death penalty off the table.

The case will return to courtroom in December, when attorneys will argue for a special wage construction.

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