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Davis requests $300,000 related to death-penalty case

March 19, 2014 | 08:57 AM

Harrison County Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis requested $300,000 from the county Monday night at the Harrison County Board of Commissioners meeting. The money is related to the Austin Scott death-penalty case.

Scott (click for larger version)

Schuler (click for larger version)
The commissioners unanimously passed the request, specifically for public defender fees, on to the county council out of riverboat gaming funds.

Commissioner Kenny Saulman said he understood the county was going to have to give some money to support the trial.

The council will hear the request Monday night.

The funds will be needed for attorneys' fees, mitigation experts, psychologists and/or psychiatrists, experts, investigators and miscellaneous expenses.

Davis said the requirements and obligations related to the death penalty are immense.

"The most serious thing the government can do to interfere with your life is to take it," Davis said of the death penalty.

Davis said the requirements expanded after the moratorium on death penalties ended in 1976 and haven't really stopped.

Public defenders are only allowed to do a certain amount of work, so the case load related to the death-penalty case or others will have to be shared with other attorneys, per state law. The law also specifies how much those attorneys are to be paid.

Davis said the funding will be a one-time expense and, when the case is over, it'll be done.

"It's not for me to say; that's the prosecutor's call ... " he said of pursuing the death penalty. "I'll do my best to ensure we don't do things twice."

The county has another death-penalty case, against Kevin (Drew) Schuler, but Schuler is currently represented by a private attorney so public defender fees are not needed.

The two men are accused of murdering Asenath Arnold and Gary Henderson in their Byrneville home in October.

The paperwork that was filed says that Schuler killed Asenath Arnold while committing or attempting to commit the crime of robbery, by using a wooden device known as a single tree (item used with a horse carriage) to strike her multiple times in the head at her home. It also says Schuler murdered Gary Henderson.

Scott committed the murder by intentionally killing the victim, Gary Henderson, while committing or attempting to commit robbery, by using a knife to stab Henderson multiple times, according to the filing.

"One of the single, most important decisions that I'm tasked with as prosecutor is choosing whether or not to seek the death penalty for an individual, even more so for an 18-year-old," Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said in August.

Historically, the average cost of a death-penalty case to a county in Indiana is substantially higher than a case in which defendants face life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to a 2010 report from the Legislative Services Agency in Indianapolis, of the three possible sentencing options for murder (death, life without parole, determine sentencing of between 45 and 65 years), the death penalty is generally the most expensive for trial courts to conduct because two attorneys are required to represent the accused.

The average capital case resulting in a death sentence costs $449,887, while the average cost of a case in which a life-without-parole sentence was sought and achieved was only $42,658. Since Scott and Schuler will be tried separately, the cost to Harrison County taxpayers could approach or surpass $1 million.

The next board of commissioners' meeting will be Monday, April 7, at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.

Twitter: @rossschulz

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email