Archive for Tuesday, November 28, 1989

MURDER TRIAL PRODUCES HEFTY BILLS

November 28, 1989

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Justice carried a hefty price tag in the trial of a 28-year-old man convicted of killing a Lawrence boy in July 1988.

Court and law enforcement officials said that what may be a record amount of juror's fees and security costs were racked up during the trial of John William, who was convicted Nov. 17 of first-degree murder in the slaying of Richard Settlemyre.

Sherlyn Sampson, clerk of Douglas County District Court, said juror's fees totaled $3,106.58.

"In all my history of being here, that's the most we've ever spent on jurors for a criminal trial," said Sampson, clerk since 1975.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jim Flory said the fees were high because potential jurors were individually questioned, beginning Nov. 7, about publicity the case had received and about the issue of the insanity defense.

IN MOST CASES, Flory said, potential jurors are questioned as a group, and a jury is chosen in a single day.

In the William case, 83 potential jurors were paid for their services on the first day of selection alone. Because of the lengthy selection process, 12 jurors and two alternates were not seated until Nov. 10.

Sampson said jurors and prospective jurors are paid a flat fee of $10 per day, plus 22 cents per mile traveling expenses, regardless of how long they spend on jury duty each day.

Because William had been disruptive in earlier hearings and had been involved in a scuffle with officers after a competency hearing in March, security was tight during his trial.

Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said eight to 10 officers from the sheriff's and police departments were assigned daily to provide security in the courtroom.

The exact amount of security costs was unavailable. But officials said officers were paid as much as $15 per hour in overtime wages to work in the courtroom.

Flory said the trial required more security than any other local trial he has seen since he took office in 1984.

IN SOME AREAS, the price of William's trial was fairly run-of-the-mill. Flory said his office's fees for expert testimony and accommodations for out-of-town witnesses, for instance, were similar to those for other trials.

Flory said the number of witnesses about 30 for the state and roughly 15 for the defense also was not unusual. Witness fees, which are the same amount as juror's fees, therefore would not be excessively high.

But other, incidental, fees helped boost the price tag.

Andrea Knickerbocker, court administrator, said a bailiff was paid $6.06 an hour for nine days of work.

Although bailiff's fees are paid by the state, she said, the county had to foot the bill to make a temporary "office" for electronic media representatives.

Knickerbocker said the county paid $60 to rent room dividers used to fashion the media enclosure, which housed radio equipment, a monitor for the in-court television camera and other TV production gear. Installation costs pushed the figure even higher, she said.

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