Judge scoffs at public defender board policy

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Accused double murderer Lee Turner will not get his April trial date postponed. At least not if Judge Richard D. Anderson gets his way. Anderson on Friday afternoon denied a defense motion to continue the trial.

Public Defense Attorney Margaret Lagatutta told Judge Anderson she would not get to hire a mental health expert until May. May is the month that was approved by the Louisiana Public Defender Board to allocate funds.

"I'm not going to let the public defender board dictate when trials go. When is it going to stop?" asked an agitated Judge Richard D. Anderson. "I don't understand why (LPDB) don't take into consideration trial dates. It's a dangerous precedent to allow them to decide how capitol cases go forward."

The state public defender Jay Dixon says he understands Anderson's frustration but he cannot help.

"We can't change our policy we have a duty to the state fiscal office. I mean we handle state money, taxpayer monies and we have to administer it responsibly," says Dixon. "At the core of all of this is that we don't have enough money and that is extremely frustrating and we have to take limited funds that we know is not enough and we have to stretch them out through the course of the year and we have to fund as many people as we can. I understand the courts frustration, I understand the prosecutor's frustration, I understand the defense consul's frustration, and the answer is more funding."

"I believe at some point this case is going to go to a penalty phase. Under the law I have to have a complete and through mitigation investigation and the judge has stopped that," says defense attorney Margaret Lagatutta. "It's a question of we need a little more time and he doesn't want to give us that."

"Were very pleased with the judge's ruling and the bottom line is that he's just not going to let the board dictate when and if we can proceed to trial," says veteran prosecutor Tracey Barbera. "I agree with it, the money is there and it needs to be used. This case is set for trial April 28th and it needs to take place."

Lagatutta says she will immediately appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeal and the Louisiana Supreme Court if necessary.

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