Louise Luck is a Goshen, N.Y.-based mitigation specialist who researches death-penalty defendants' backgrounds to help tell their stories to the jury at sentencing. She billed Northampton County, Pennsylvania approximately $96,000.00 for work on the defense of Jeffrey Knoble. The court appointed defense attorney made $22,071.00, reported the Allentown Morning Call.
Given what is at stake, death-penalty defenses routinely cost six figures, an expense spurred by a stringent appeals process that has created a virtual checklist of experts that attorneys must hire — or else risk a higher court ordering a retrial because they didn't do enough for their clients.
Luck's role is required under case law and American Bar Association guidelines, which say that capital murder defendants are entitled at minimum to experienced attorneys, a mitigation expert and an investigator who gathers and checks evidence.
The lead lawyer at trial, Gavin Holihan said the total price tag for Knoble’s defense "doesn't shock me in the least." It is driven by court rulings that have placed a "tremendous burden" on defense lawyers in death-penalty cases, and on the prosecution's decision to file capital charges, he said.
"The right to counsel was guaranteed by the Founding Fathers," Holihan said. "That's not a mistake. That's not a technicality. It's a fundamental principle that our country was founded upon."
Marc Bookman is the executive director of the Philadelphia-based Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, which advises defense teams in death-penalty cases. He said scrutiny of bills like Luck's are misplaced, and show why death sentences in Pennsylvania are routinely overturned.
"The answer is, if they don't want to pay it, they shouldn't pursue capital charges," Bookman said. "If you are going to have a real death penalty, it is going to be expensive."
Bookman added: "Pennsylvania just doesn't get it. They've never gotten it. ... This is why we have the fifth largest death row and no executions."
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