CLEVELAND, Ohio — The cost of suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell’s legal defense, which already has set a record among expensive trials in Cuyahoga County, now has exceeded $185,000 with still three months to go before the trial.
In the past month, Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose, granted additional funds for forensic consultants, paralegal assistance, a neuropsychologist and for a team of researchers to comb through more than 2,000 hours of surveillance video shot from the lot next door to Sowell’s Imperial Avenue home.
Sowell’s attorneys, Rufus Sims and John Parker, submitted another funding request during a hearing Wednesday. But the motion was filed under seal and has not been made public.
Sowell, 51, is accused of killing 11 women, whose remains were found in and around his home last fall in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. He faces the death penalty, charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping, abusing a human corpse and tampering with evidence. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 14, and he is due in court for another hearing on Nov. 23.
The cost of Sowell’s defense broke the $150,000 benchmark with the approval last month of expenses for a forensic expert and the continued services of a paralegal — pushing the cost of the defense past the previous high for a publicly funded criminal case in the county.
Sowell’s defense team remains dangerously close to exceeding its $35,000 cap on paralegal services and its $25,000 cap for a mitigation specialist.
Legal experts and guidelines designed by the American Bar Association suggest that court-ordered caps on such expenses are improper and could constitute grounds for an appeal.
However, Ambrose has said in his rulings that he would not consider future requests without documentation justifying the expense. Parker and Sims said last month they were preparing the paperwork to request more money for mitigation.
I do hope that we are auditing these lawyers. We need to check and recheck the charges.
I understand that this is a death penalty case so we need to make sure that there is no way someone else broke into Sowell’s place and hid the bodies in the walls while he was sleeping or jogging, or any other insane defense they can come up with. I know that we, as a society, do not want to put innocent people in jail, or worse, to the death chamber. I do think that we sometimes go too far in trying to protect people that we know are killers.
I also get angry though because in many cases we spend stupid amounts of money to defend criminals and although no expense is spared they still get years and years of appeals. The appeals make the families and other survivors deal with these guys over and over again year after year. Then, even if given the death penalty they end up dying of old age in prison.
There has to be a better way.