Citing a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report of endemic waste and lax oversight in the Illinois’s death penalty trial fund, the state treasurer prposed reforms to abolish what he called a “blank check” for lawyers and others involved in such trials. Legislators in both parties agreed they may have to revisit the question of whether the state’s Capital Litigation Trust Fund is too easily abused by trial professionals who tap it, the Post-Dispatch reported. “Are these people gouging the state of Illinois? That’s what we need to look into,” said state Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson.
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ proposal would create a panel to review vouchers submitted to the fund, which pays expenses of defense and prosecution teams in death penalty trials. The proposal would set specific limits on amounts lawyers and others can charge for specific items such as meals and travel. The Post-Dispatch reported that some people working on death penalty trials have charged the fund as much as $300 an hour for merely driving to the jurisdiction of a trial. The newspaper found hotel rooms for as much as $300 a night billed to the fund. The fund was established eight years ago after several death row inmates were found not guilty. It provides money to both sides in death penalty trials to pay for lawyers’ fees, investigators, and other expenses approved by the court.