Death penalty attorney pay going up in Philadelphia

Attorneys who defend death-penalty cases for the indigent in Philadelphia will get paid a lot more.  

While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides on a permanent fee structure, pay will be bumped up $8,000 to $10,000 for attorneys who defend capital cases.  Lawyers who only handle the penalty phase will now get $7,500.

Judge Benjamin Lerner reviewed the pay scale and found it was way too low. Lerner says it’s in the interest of everyone to find the best attorneys to defend capital cases.

“Lawyers are not looking to make a lot of money on court appointments, but they also aren’t looking to spend a 100-150 hours on a case the most difficult, stressful case you can imagine and be paid the equivilent of two or three bucks an hour,” said Lerner.

Attorney Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation says the higher flat fee could act as an incentive for attorneys seeking to make a quick dollar with a fast resolution to the case.  He wants a different solution.

“What I’m hoping is that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopts Judge Lerner’s recommendation two lawyers in a capital case and the pay of $90 an hour,” said Bookman.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.