In March, a Maryland court ruled that an attorney for a man charged with murder in the 2016 drowning of a Maryland woman would not have to pay $25,000 in hydro bills.
The man, Kevin James, was accused of killing 23-year-old Joanne Lacey at a home she shared with her parents in a Baltimore suburb.
Prosecutors argued that Lacey’s parents were negligent and that James had no motive to commit the killing.
The judge ruled that James’s attorney, Robert Burt, would not pay the bills for more than six months, as he did for previous victims.
Burt argued that he had no right to the $25 million.
A trial in Baltimore is scheduled for June.
The case prompted the state’s attorney general to order an investigation of how Maryland has charged and settled its cases.
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said that “there is no excuse for an attorney to not pay his client’s hydro bill” because it is “essential to justice.”
In April, a federal appeals court in Richmond ruled that Maryland’s laws regarding the death penalty, including the state statute that requires an attorney who files a motion to dismiss an appeal, do not protect an accused’s right to sue.
The appeals court said that in cases in which an attorney is the one who files an appeal against a jury verdict, it is clear that the law “is meant to be narrowly construed.”
Burt’s lawyers argued that it is a constitutional right for the state to pay his attorney fees in cases where the attorney is not a party to the action.