Defense fees in Philly death penalty cases probed

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a Philadelphia judge to look into a death penalty defense group’s assertion that the city’s pay rate for lawyers who represent the poor in capital cases is so low that it violates the constitutional right to an effective defense.

    The Philadelphia Inquirer says the high court told Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner yesterday to hold hearings within 90 days and make recommendations within 60 days after that.

    The petition by the nonprofit Atlantic Center for Capital Representation says pay for court-appointed death penalty lawyers is the lowest in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. They say lawyers in Philadelphia death penalty cases get $2,000 for trial preparation and daily fees of $200 to $400, while those in other counties get $50 to $125 per hour.

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