Kansas judge allows victims’ lawyers to assist prosecution
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County judge on Wednesday allowed private attorneys hired by families of the victims to assist in the prosecution of a man charged with killing two sheriff’s deputies.
The ruling in the capital murder case of 30-year-old Antoine Fielder came despite the objections of defense lawyers and the judge’s own misgivings. Fielder is accused of fatally shooting Wyandotte County deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer last June as they were escorting him back to jail after a hearing in a robbery case.
Kansas law allows crime victims to pay for lawyers to assist prosecutors as “associate attorneys,” and the slain deputies’ families hired married law partners Tom and Tricia Bath, The Kansas City Star reports .
District Judge Bill Klapper said that while he finds their inclusion in the case “inherently problematic,” he is bound by state law that mandates they “shall” be allowed.
The Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, whose attorneys are representing Fielder, objected to what they termed “interference” in the case. They argued that the Kansas law allowing the hiring of private attorneys to assist in criminal prosecutions has never been used in a death penalty case.
Defense Attorney Jeff Dazey said during a court hearing that the law has been on the books in Kansas since the early 20th century, “long before the modern era of the death penalty.”
A spokesman for Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree said he met with the Baths before they entered the case and had no objection to their participation.
“The law is clear,” Tricia Bath argued. “We get to be here and the victims get to have an official representative here.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com