Defense Reveals Strategy in Lee Case

The man who will defend suspected serial killer Derrick Todd Lee says he's ready for the challenge. Public Defender Michael Mitchell is no stranger to capital murder cases. Mitchell has put in 18 years with the Public Defender's Office- nine of them as director. He has served as the attorney in 11 capital murder cases in East Baton Rouge Parish and supervised the defense in numerous others. Nine cases resulted in life sentences and two are still pending.

Mitchell knows defending Derrick Lee will be difficult. He faces the state's number one District Attorney's Office in the nation under Doug Moreau according to the National District Attorney's Association, "I have experience in death penalty cases, and I will have to call on every inch of that experience to be involved in this case."

Mitchell says DNA will be the backbone of the prosecution's case. He will look to prove that Derrick Lee's DNA was mishandled, "The DNA in most people's mind is conclusive. But the fact of the matter is DNA is only as good as the person who collects the samples, the person who conducts the test of the samples, the people who analyze the sample."

Right now, Mitchell's biggest concern is money- or the lack of it. Mitchell says typical capital murder cases cost more than 100-thousand dollars. Derrick Lee's case could cost more than a million, "We are going to do all we can to make sure we receive the resources necessary to defend Mr. Lee. And if we don't get those resources, we're going to ask the court to stop the process."Mitchell is also considering asking for a change of venue in this case.

This is not the first time Mitchell has gone head to head with Moreau in a capital murder case. The District Attorney's office sought 24 death penalty verdicts during the first ten years of the Moreau administration. They failed to get death verdicts in only four cases -- and Mitchell was involved in three of those four cases avoiding the death penalty.