Who Pays For Indigent Defendants?

Sep 20, 2013

Connecticut Supreme Court.
Credit John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut’s Supreme Court is receiving briefs in a case that could affect how the state pays for indigent defendants.

Dr. Lishan Wang is accused of the 2010 murder of a former colleague, Dr. Vanjinder Toor in Branford. Wang was briefly represented by the public defender’s office, but later won the right to defend himself.

Marcia Chambers has been reporting on the case for the Branford Eagle and New Haven Independent. "If he represents himself, he is entitled as an indigent to expert witnesses to present at his trial. And the problem is that neither the state nor the public defender which once represented him want to pay the fees for the expert witnesses."

The public defender's office says it’ll have no say in how the case is represented because the defendant is making those decisions. And with tight court budgets, the state’s judicial branch says it doesn’t have the funding to pay for this kind of expenditure.

"This case, many believe, will determine who pays for indigent defendants in the state of Connecticut. Its not just Wang. If the court system won’t pay for his expert witnesses, then they won’t pay for expert witnesses for other cases. So this case could be precedent-setting."

Connecticut’s Supreme Court usually won’t hear cases before they’re completed, but the questions raised in this one are unique.