CAPOLA defense attorneys file motions to drop capital murder cas - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

CAPOLA defense attorneys file motions to drop capital murder cases, citing budget problems

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Tarika Wilson is scheduled to stand trial this fall for the 2013 death of toddler Rizcheir Muskelly. When she does, it may or may not include her current defense team.

Exactly five months before jury selection, Wilson's attorneys filed a motion to withdraw as council, citing budgetary issues.
Attorneys Elton Richey and Jason Waltman- with the Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana or CAPOLA- filed motions to withdraw as council in multiple cases.

Court records document the issue:

"In recent years the contractual arrangements and awarding of the annual contracts have been handled by the Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB)... The Executive Director of CAPOLA has been informed by the LPDB that LPDB has made no provision to fund CAPOLA for the upcoming fiscal year."

CAPOLA received almost $1.4 million funding in 2013from the state board's $33m dollar budget.

A legislative audit released in February showed the state board was running at a deficit and mandated they better oversee programs.

Louisiana State public defender Jay Dixon says they're reviewing CAPOLA's operations and calls the motions to withdraw "premature."

Prosecutors say allowing CAPOLA attorneys to drop cases could affect their ability to try for the death penalty, a claim Dixon denies.

"The pool of death certified lawyers is pretty small to begin with," Caddo Parish ADA Dale Cox said. "If all of them are allowed to withdraw because of this funding issue, then there won't be any more death penalty or even the possibility of death penalty trials."
"Even assuming CAPOLA were allowed to withdraw, we would make sure [indigent defendants] had capital representation," Dixon said.

At the very least, a change in counsel threatens to prolong cases and push back trial dates.

Judge Katharine Dorroh said Tuesday Tarika Wilson's trial will start November 3, with or without Richey and Waltman.

Previous article: Shreveport child murder suspect will stay in custody until trial

Nearly one in four death row inmates was convicted in Caddo Parish.

The state board will meet with CAPOLA board members on Monday to go over their performance review.

Dorroh is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion to withdraw from Wilson's case June 19. Jay Dixon will be subpeonaed to appear on that date.

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