Georgia Public Defender's Office Cutting 41 Jobs
ATLANTA -- Budget woes at a state public defender's office, which forced a delay in the high-profile trial of accused courthouse killer Brian Nichols, has led to more fallout. The agency said Monday it is cutting jobs and expenses.
The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council said it voted last week to implement $4.25 million in budget cuts so it can operate within a $35.4 million appropriation granted by the state Legislature for fiscal 2008.
The bulk of the budget cuts involve the elimination of 41 full-time and all part-time employees, the agency said in a statement.
The council said that to meet its budget for next year it also has put in place across-the-board cuts in operating expenses and the termination of several vendor supply contracts.
The public defender's office was already planning on some job cuts for next year, but increased the number after it received $2 million less for next year's budget than it wanted, it said in its statement.
The jobs to be cut include four positions in an office that specializes in death penalty cases.
A spokeswoman did not immediately return calls Monday seeking further details.
The public defender's office had already been facing budget woes for the current year. Officials have said they will have to furlough staff at the end of the month unless the state delivers nearly $9 million needed to make it through the June 30 end of the fiscal year. The office is paying only essential bills, like salaries and rent.
The Legislature approved the additional money in its midyear budget, but Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed the spending plan and has yet to call a special session to resolve the impasse.
Because of the defense funding problems, a judge in March postponed Nichols' murder trial until September.
Nichols, 35, could face the death penalty if convicted in the four killings on March 11, 2005.
Authorities say he was being escorted to a courtroom in the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta for his retrial in a rape case when he beat a deputy and stole her gun. He is accused of killing the judge presiding over the rape trial, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy who chased him outside and a federal agent at a home a few miles away. Prosecutors say he took a woman hostage the next day in her suburban Atlanta home, then surrendered.
At last count, his defense attorneys had cost the state public defender's office $1.4 million in fees and expenses. The average Georgia death penalty case from the beginning of the case through the initial appeal following a conviction costs the defender's office about $400,000.
There was no immediate comment from Perdue on Monday on the budget woes at the public defender's office.