South Dakota sees funding increase amid death penalty cases
Oct. 22, 2017
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Defending two men facing the possibility of the death penalty in a murder case will cost a western South Dakota county's budget as much as $1 million more in 2018.
Pennington County commissioners granted the request made by the courthouse and public defenders last month for more than $500,000 increases each to their 2018 budgets. A large portion of those will go toward defending two men facing the death penalty on first-degree murder charges, the Rapid City Journal reported .
Jonathon Klinetobe, 28, and Richard Hirth, 36, have been charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the disappearance and death of Jessica Rehfeld, 22, in 2015. Klinetobe is represented by three appointed lawyers, two from the county public defender's office and one private attorney. Hirth has two court-appointed private lawyers.
The law requires defendants who can't afford to hire a lawyer be appointed one by the court. Death penalty cases require at least two lawyers, but defendants are responsible for repaying the county the cost of their legal defense.
Death penalty cases are "exceedingly expensive" and taxpayers can reasonably expect to shoulder up to $1 million for the prosecution and defense such a case, said Eric Whitcher, director of the county public defender's office.
"The people who are available to handle those cases are highly specialized, and they cost significant funds," he said, including criminal investigators, lab analysts, psychiatrists, crime scene analysts and pathologists.
Klinetobe and Hirth have been detained at the county jail since May 2016. It's unclear when they will go to trial, but their cases will likely again come under the spotlight in budget hearings for 2019 if they aren't tried before then.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com