MARKSVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Who will foot part of the legal bill for one of the deputy marshals accused of shooting and killing a 6-year-old boy in Marksville?
Derrick Stafford has been ruled indigent, meaning he does not have the money to pay for expert witnesses on his own and the court must provide it. His lawyer, Jonathan Goins, has requested two experts.
Judge William Bennett initially denied the request for the use of force expert, while he approved the accident reconstruction expert. However, the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury refused to pay the requested $4,368.
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"We've never been tasked to pay the fees we're being asked to pay," said Police Jury President Charles Jones. "He's entitled to an adequate defense whether he can afford it or not. That's how our judicial system works, but if there's another government entity that has this responsibility, then they should stand up and take responsibility."
Jones said the Louisiana Indigent Defender Board should have to pick up the tab. Now, the police jury has hired its own lawyer. They filed a motion for Bennett to reconsider his decision of asking the police jury to pay the bill.
"The police jury should do what's right, do what's fair and do what's in the best interest of justice and pay for the accident reconstructionist," Goins said.
On top of that expert, the appeals court has now ordered Judge Bennett to listen to Stafford's request for another expert. This one would be for the use of force since attorneys have said that Chris Few was using his vehicle as a weapon.
Jones said the police jury does not have the money to pay for experts as they did not budget for such expenses.
"People who have dealt with cases like this before say this type of thing can go $18,000 to $20,000, sometimes even more," Jones said.
When told the police jury is saying they don't have the money, Goins said they were "going to have to find the money."
"Someone has to foot the bill and we expect for our witness to be paid," Goins said.
Jones said they are not trying to be disrespectful to the court system or the judge, but said they simply do not have the funds. He added if the judge rules they must pay, they will obey the law.
"If they say, you're going to take money from other programs or you going to divert funds from roads and bridges, from other officers you're supporting financially and you're going to pay for it, then we'll do it. We're going to follow the law," Jones said.
Goins said he does not anticipate the trial starting on time.
The police jury will go to court on November 7 asking the judge to reconsider the jury having to pay the expert. Stafford's lawyers will also be in court that day asking the judge for money for another expert, this one for use of force.
As of now, Stafford's trial is set for November 28, that is if it is not delayed.