Homicides drain county budget for public defenders

Thursday, October 15, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

A spate of homicides at the end of 1997 has left the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office in need of a cash infusion.

County commissioners approved a $500,000 transfer from the general fund Wednesday to offset rising costs primarily caused by between 20 and 25 homicides that occurred in November and December.

Homicides are costly to handle because public defenders must work harder and longer on the cases.

"I apologize for having to do business this way," Public Defender Lou Strigari told the commissioners. "I try to be a good manager, and I try to do the best job with what we have."

The commissioners assured Mr. Strigari they were not concerned and the transfer was necessary.

There were 16 homicides within the city of Cincinnati alone in November and December. He estimates his officers handled between 20 and 25 during that period.

He said the homicides cost his office $200,000 to $300,000. In addition, his office has been strapped because of an increase in work from the county's juvenile court, and because the county is cracking down on wanted criminals.

The juvenile court work, which involves delinquency and custody cases, was previously handled by court-appointed attorneys, who earned $30 an hour.

Mr Strigari hired four attorneys for the cases, and predicts he eventually will save the county more than $100,000 a year.

The crackdown on criminals has been led by Judge Mark Schweikert of Hamilton County Municipal Court, who has helped reduce the county's number of outstanding warrants from 114,000 at the beginning of the year to fewer than 104,000 now.

Mr. Strigari said his office used to handle 75 to 100 people locked up a day, and is now handling 100 to 150.

County Commissioner John Dowlin said the crackdown was necessary because people had grown disrespectful of the law.

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