Legal expert says Theriot case could be halted if La. doesn’t come up with money for capital murder defense trial

Legal expert says Theriot case could be halted if La. doesn’t come up with money for capital murder defense trial
Dakota Theriot, 21 (Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office)

(WAFB) - The man accused of killing five people in a multi-parish shooting spree was in court Monday, June 24 to determine his defense in the capital murder case.

Accused killer Dakota Theriot goes to court to determine defense in capital murder case

WAFB’s cameras were rolling as Dakota Theriot was walked into the courtroom. Theriot is accused of shooting his girlfriend, her father, and little brother in Livingston Parish. Investigators say he then drove to Ascension Parish, where he reportedly shot and killed both of his parents. The director of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, Richard Bourke, says this case is caught up in a problem that’s affecting death penalty cases all across the state.

“There’s a funding crisis for all the criminal defense across the state for poor people. A few years ago, they pulled a lot of money out of the capital cases to try to help all of the people going to court on non-capital cases, but that’s left the capital cases short on money," said Bourke.

Theriot has no other option than to wait until the State of Louisiana can find the money for that to happen.

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“We all agree that the government can’t put you on trial and try to have you executed unless you’re given a chance for a fair defense and that means that we have to for poor folks provide funding for lawyers and all of the other work that goes in. The problem at the moment is there isn’t enough money to pay for that in this case and others around the state are caught up with what to do when the state wants to prosecute, but isn’t willing to pay for a fair trial. There’s a funding crisis for all the criminal defense across the state for poor people,” Bourke said. “Mr. Theriot has been found by the court to be indigent. That means he doesn’t have the money to pay for this case, so the state, under the Constitution, has to provide him with adequate legal representation, a fair trial.”

Bourke also says if the state won’t put up the money for a fair trial, the case can be stopped and no further prosecution can occur until the state comes up with the money, however, when proceedings like this are halted, the defendant, in this case Theriot, would have to remain in prison until the trial can resume.

“Of course, the Louisiana Supreme Court made clear ten years ago that if people take too long, then people will be let out of prison. I think we all believe, no matter how bad the crime, no matter how bad the allegations, that everyone in this country deserves a fair trial, even people sitting at home who believe he’s guilty, will still believe that everyone deserves a fair trial and that’s all this is about,” Bourke said.

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