Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Big Spending

Posted by Maggie on September 12, 2007

First, a quick, not unexpected, update in the Brian Nichols case. Defense attorneys have filed their intent to invoke a mental illness defense. No surprises there.

Second, the Fulton County DA is starting to spend more than some people think is necessary. There are complaints about commingling funds, and putting office money towards parties and “a Superman-style red cape, with “super lawyer” printed across the back.”

More on both after the jump.

The Nichols article has this weird statement:

Nationally, defense attorneys rarely mount a mental illness defense because juries seldom approve it.

No support for this, but a brief, bizarre mention of the Yates case. Counsel had already mentioned a mental illness defense, but they had a September 20 deadline to file. Jury selection will allegedly begin again on October 1. Nothing has been said about the continuing budget problems delaying the case.

I’m glad we’re not just talking about Defense fund problems. Several months ago it finally came out that the prosecution of Nichols cost even more than the defense. The defense costs have had all the spotlight and created huge problems for Georgia Public Defenders. I know the Prosecutors were in budgetary troubles too, but somehow it never got the same amount of attention. This article on Fulton DA spending isn’t exactly on point, but at least someone’s looking. (It’s probably because of the DA in Piedmont Circuit who was recently indicted for spending inappropriately. An update here, if you’re interested.)

A run down from the article:

Fulton County auditors looked at six accounts controlled by District Attorney Paul Howard, but most of their concerns were of expenditures out of the “confiscated fund account,” where state and federal asset forfeiture monies were deposited along with court fines and fees collected to help victims and some taxpayer dollars. Withdrawals from the fund include:

$1,500 to sponsor the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys.

$5,150 for benefits, dinners, college football tickets, fund-raisers and balls sponsored by the Atlanta Business League, Women Looking Ahead, the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, the Gate City Bar Association and 100 Black Men of Atlanta.

$1,500 for the 2006 Hall of Fame Gala sponsored by the Gate City Bar Association.

Howard said $34,627.26 of federal money was spent, including:

$150on dinner to celebrate the conviction of James Sullivan for killing his wife in 1987.

$1,524 in court filing and transcript copying fees.

$6,728 two checks reissued to Fulton County.

$6,500 for upkeep and maintenance on confiscated house on Atwood Street.

$9,100 for consultation and coordination of Howard’s perfect attendance program in Atlanta public elementary schools.

$89 Superman-type red cape, with “super lawyer” printed across the back, that an assistant prosecutor was encouraged to wear at a Christmas party.

$1,450 for the Christmas staff awards celebrations at the Carter Center and more than $4,000 for catering them.

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