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Union County, IL

Pitts' legal fees could break the bank

Pitts' legal fees could break the bank
By: Carly O'Keefe

UNION COUNTY, Ill. - They say crime doesn't pay, but you never really hear how much you pay to try someone else accused of committing a crime.

Twenty-three-year-old Robert Pitts, Jr. of Jonesboro is charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of his parents, Robert and Marcia Pitts.

Union County States Attorney Allen James says the county could potentially pay more than the county's annual court budget on his upcoming trial. Union county allots close to $90,000 a year to pay for court cases across the board, but Pitts' trial alone could wipe out that budget entirely.

"Everyone by our United States constitution is entitled to be represented by counsel, and if they cannot afford one, one will be provided for them, and this is a particular case where the person cannot afford one. If it is a capital case, two will be provided for him, the legal fees could be over $100,000," said James.

James says legal fees and expert witnesses for both the defense and prosecution are paid for out of that court budget. Some experts charge as much as hundreds of dollars an hour to take the stand.

Once that $90,000 is spent, "it'll come out of the general fund in Union County, it'll be the Union County citizens, the tax payers of Union County will pay for it," James said.

If the defense moves for a change in venue, it could cost even more.

"That means we have to travel there, our witnesses have to travel there, we have to provide them motel accommodations and pay for their meals, the judge has to travel, everybody has to travel, so it increases the cost," said James.

The case has already put quite a dent in the sheriff's annual budget. Three weeks into the fiscal year, $5,000 had already been spent investigating the murders of Robert and Marcia Pitts.  

"We'd like to know that we can get through with what we've got, but we just can't drop the ball and say no more homicides, we have an obligation to the taxpayers of Union County to one fulfill the police duties and two to see that they're prosecuted," said Sheriff David Livesay.

But whatever the cost, James says Union County will pay it.

"We can't forget there are two people who were killed here. Just as our defendant is entitled to justice, so do the victims of this crime. Those victims deserve justice and anything we can do for them," said James.

The Illinois Capital Litigation Fund will help pay for Pitts' defense if the prosecution pushes for the death penalty. If not, Union County will pay all of Pitts' legal fees.

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