Costs of Defending Indigent Tennessee Death Penalty Cases

*** FILE *** The Texas death chamber is shown May 19, 2000, in Huntsville, Texas. Michael Rodriguez, one of the notorious Texas Seven, a group of inmates who escaped from state prison in 2000 and killed a police officer while on the lam, has dropped his appeals and wants to die. A federal judge signed off on Rodriguez's request on Sept. 27, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case. But now a state judge won't set an execution date for Rodriguez until after the high court rules on the Kentucky case. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Lawmakers and others studying the death penalty in Tennessee are analyzing how much money is spent defending indigent cases.

Libby Sykes, director of Tennessee's Administrative Office of the Courts, says the state spent more than $20 million defending indigent cases last year. Those costs included fees for investigations, attorneys and expert witnesses.

Democratic state Sen. Doug Jackson says he's concerned that the office arbitrarily bases its decisions on whether to approve or deny funding on its budget without considering the legal needs of defendants.

Sykes says the office does not have the money to increase the rates they pay attorneys to take on indigent cases.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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