Death penalty trial budgeted at $750,000

2013-03-09T23:35:00Z 2013-09-16T17:56:06Z Death penalty trial budgeted at $750,000Susan Brown, (219) 662-5325
March 09, 2013 11:35 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County officials say the tab for the Kevin Isom death penalty case is capped at $750,000, and any more will have to be borrowed.

In the wake of a five-week trial, Isom, 46, was formally sentenced to death Friday for the murders of his wife and two stepchildren in August 2007. 

The county had increased this year's appropriations to help defray costs, Lake County Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said.

"Last year, we budgeted for death penalty cases approximately $500,000," Bilski said. "For 2013, we took $250,000 from riverboats, (adding it) to the $500,000 for a total of $750,000."

"If they go through that, there's no other recourse here," he said. "They have to go to our borrowing committee."

Reducing the burden on the county will be reimbursements from the Indiana Public Defender Commission for 50 percent of defense-related costs; the non-capital reimbursement rate is 40 percent.

According to the commission, the county was reimbursed about $190,000 as of Sept. 19, 2012, with no further claims presented as of last week.

The reimbursements to the county are funded at the state level by a combination of court fees and appropriations from the state general fund.

Chief Lake County Public Defender David Schneider said defense-related costs are in process with no final accounting having been expected prior to last Friday's sentencing.

Also still pending are lodging and food bills for the 12 jurors and four alternates who were sequestered throughout the trial. However, Lake County Court Administrator Martin Goldman was able to report payroll for the jurors came to $89,618.40.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter reported his office's cost as "very fixed and minimal." The two deputy prosecuting attorneys on the case worked at their regular salaries and little additional pay, he said.

But in seeking the increased appropriations for Isom's defense, Schneider appears to have anticipated a higher cost than the county's last capital case to go to trial, that of Darryl Jeter in 2006. Jeter had been convicted of shooting Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick in 2003.

Figures provided by the County Council showed the final cost of Jeter's capital murder trial at about $483,000. Of that, about $450,000 went to public defenders, $27,000 toward lodging, $12,000 toward food and the remainder to miscellaneous expenses.

However, unlike Jeter's case, Isom's case was hampered by numerous delays, a longer trial and two rounds of jury selection.

With jurors finally seated, the trial opened Jan. 6, typically running more than eight hours a day, six days a week, until his conviction.

According to the Department of Correction, Isom now will join 11 inmates on death row in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, taking his meals alone in a single cell measuring 10-feet-by-11-feet, 8 inches.

He will be permitted out of his cell four times a day to shower, exercise and work a job for pay of 25 cents an hour.

Isom may appeal his conviction on three levels, the first being mandatory, according to the Indiana Public Defender Council.

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