Rep. Stewart Sponsors Bill Following Drew Peterson Report
on Tuesday, February 14, 2017
CHICAGO — A Republican State Representative has introduced a bill that would require inmates with financial resources to pay for their own defense if they’re charged with committing a crime while behind bars. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner quickly said he supports the bill.
The legislation is in response to a WGN Investigates report that found Drew Peterson’s court-appointed legal team charged Illinois taxpayers $264,000 to defend the former Bolingbrook cop. Peterson was convicted of plotting from prison to hire a hit man to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Glasgow was the prosecutor who put Peterson in prison for killing his third wife Kathleen Savio.
“Taxpayers are on the hook too easily for inmate legal bills,” Rauner said in a statement to WGN. “In a time when financial resources are tight across state government, there are better uses for the more than $200,000 the state is paying to defend Drew Peterson.”
Peterson’s defense cost the Illinois Department of Corrections more than it has spent to defend an inmate in 18 years.
A Randolph County judge told WGN Investigates he decided to forego a public defender and appoint private counsel for Peterson because of the complexity of the case. However the judge said it’s not his job to reign in the costs of private attorneys.
“If I were to tell the defense ‘you can’t spend any more,’ then in fact I think it could be said later the defendant wasn’t given a fair trial,” Judge Richard Brown said.
The new bill, sponsored by State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, would require the Illinois Department of Corrections to pay for legal fees in similar cases only if it’s determined the inmate cannot afford a private attorney on his own.