The Illinois Cook County Public Defender’s Office has run out of funds to cover the expenses needed to provide adequate death penalty representation. Cook County Public Defender Abishi Cunningham Jr. said the shortfall originated from former-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of a bill that would have increased the public defender budget from $1.75 million to $2.25 million. Without that $500,000, Cunningham said they have run out of money to pay for expert witnesses, forensic testing, and the other expenses that drive the cost of a death penalty case towards $2 million. “I urge those interested in justice to recognize that if the policy of this state is to have a death penalty, that policy must be accompanied by an appropriate financial commitment to the defense of the accused,” Cunningham added. Now the office is forced to file dozens of motions asking judges to bar the state from seeking the death penalty or allow public defenders to withdraw from capital cases since they do not have the funds to provide adequate defense. If public defenders withdraw from death penalty cases, judges are compelled to pay private attorneys to serve as defense counsel from a different $2 million portion of the state litigation fund.

(J. Byrne, “Public Defender: No money, no death penalty,” Chicago Tribune, June 3, 2009). See Costs and Representation.