The counsel for Hanna Barker filed a motion with the 10th Judicial District Court in Natchitoches on May 29 seeking to have Barker declared “indigent” for purposes of seeking state funding because she “has no assets or savings to pay for necessary experts or funding attorney’s proposed travel expenses…”
Barker is charged with first-degree murder in the burning death of her toddler son. The privately retained attorney for Barker claims that, “these funds and experts are critically necessary in order for her to gain a fair and just trial…”
If granted, the Louisiana Public Defender Board will have to pay thousands in expenses, excluding attorney’s fees, for experts in crime scene reconstruction, analysis, and “mitigation,” the practice of gathering evidence that the defendant can present in the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial to provide reasons why the defendant should not receive the death sentence.
This evidence can include mental issues, remorse, childhood abuse and neglect, role in the homicide, anything that can potentially move a jury to life in prison rather than execution.
The Washington Post reported on April 8, 2020, that the Louisiana Public Defender Board is broke needing 8.5 million to remain solvent, and that 18 of Louisiana’s 44 district public defender offices, of which Natchitoches is one, are in danger of insolvency. It was also reported that the Louisiana Public Defender Board passed a resolution a week earlier instructing district public defender offices to make drastic cuts to their budgets, along with instruction on how staff can file for unemployment or paycheck protection.
If the Board cannot or will not pay the funds requested by Barker’s attorney, Natchitoches Parish government will be the default guarantor. Defendants are entitled to these funds if the prosecution seeks the death penalty rather than a life sentence. The hearing is set for June 8, 2020, at 11:00.a.m.