Congress Considers Cap On Legal Fees

FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 1997

Concerned that the courtroom defense of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, Congress is considering a cap on legal fees for future federal defendants.

However, before Judge Richard Matsch imposed a gag order, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, Stephen Jones, predicted the cost of trying McVeigh and his alleged partner, Terry Nichols, will top $50 million. Since the court has declared McVeigh and Nichols to be indigent, taxpayers bear the cost of both prosecution and defense.

However, one reason the McVeigh verdict seems to have been readily accepted by the American public is that “both sides had the resources to do their jobs,” said George Kendall, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, any person charged with a crime has the right to defense counsel. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government must provide an attorney and related services for defendants who cannot afford them. Last year, the government spent about $305 million for federal defenders provided under the 1964 Criminal Justice Act.


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