THE MURDER "RATE"
When a murder is committed, not only is there an immediate and incomprehensible loss to the victim's family, but there is a high toll on the community. All of the costs for prosecution ultimately get passed on to the citizens and taxpayers. The Scaggs trial, for instance -- one of Travis County's most sensational murder cases in recent history -- carried a public price tag of nearly $64,000. That estimate is for the prosecution only, and does not include the undisclosed fees charged by Scaggs' defense attorney, Roy Minton.
The case was originally set for April 1998. According to prosecutors, the Travis County District Attorney's office started preparing two months before that. The case got pushed back more than once, and witnesses had to be subpoenaed and documents had to be filed each time there was a postponement. Who pays for those papers, filings, and errands? We all do.
Below is a ballpark estimate of costs for prosecuting the Scaggs' case in Travis County. *
Travis County District Attorney Costs $30,970
Prosecution, Court Time:$13,765
(Cost is based on salaries or wages for actual court time -- 16 trial days -- by the prosecution, consisting of two prosecutors and one investigator employed by the D.A.)
Estimated Preparatory Time:$17,205
(Director of the Trial Division, Director of the Appellate Division, and Investigator II cumulative trial preparation time: four weeks) (Includes estimated preparation time from when the trial was first scheduled in April, through the actual trial date was in October.)
District Attorney Witness & Lab Costs $9,440
Preparation and Trial time:**$6,190
Lab Tests (DNA): $3,250
Court Time, 299th District Court $21,371
Judge and staff, 16 trial days:$13,426
(Includes court reporter, court coordinator, bailiff)
DPS, witnesses and test costs:$ 7,945
(Includes DNA testing time and witness pre-trial meetings, plus meetings during trial with counsel)
Juror Fees $2,112
(12 jurors, each paid $10 per day for 17 days, plus $6 impaneling fee)
Total Estimated State & County Cost $63,893
This case has been appealed. The defendant will be responsible for the cost of getting the record transcribed, which could take a minimum of three months, according to prosecutors. Defendant's counsel will then file the appellate brief. The district attorney will be responsible for writing and filing a response brief, then arguing the case before the Court of Appeals. Any estimated projected costs at this point would only be a "guesstimate." -- Courtney Barry
* Actual costs for any trial would be difficult to calculate down to the exact nickel. There are certain incremental costs which can never be fully quantified, i.e., waiting time, legal counsel's discussions outside of work, meter time for investigators serving or delivering subpoenas, fax, postage and filing costs, gas for errands made by all parties, and of course, the extra hours put in by the prosecution for which they are only paid a set salary. It should be noted that while the trial lasted three weeks and a day, one of those days was a holiday (Veteran's Day) and the court did not commence until the afternoon. However, according to the prosecution, that entire morning was also spent in trial preparation. Additionally, there were many trial days when the jurors and court worked past regular hours to hear the case. Jurors were paid the daily juror's fee for that day, whereas salaried court personnel and prosecution were not. Thus, court and prosecution costs were calculated for 16 court days, as opposed to 17 for jurors.)
** The state pays for lodging, meals, and transportation expenses of any witness subpoenaed from outside Travis County. The county pays for expert witness fees only.
(Sources: Travis County District Attorney's office, Texas Department of Public Safety)