SPOKANE, Wash. - Lawyers for Gail Gerlach, who killed a thief stealing his SUV and was later found not guilty in court, won't be getting paid as much as they hoped for their work on the case.
On Monday Judge Annette Plese slashed the bill for the lawyers who represented Gerlach during his first degree manslaughter trial, finding the defense team's charges excessive and unnecessary.
Taxpayers are on the hook for Gerlach's legal bills because he convinced a jury he was acting in self defense when he fired that fatal shot. However Plese found the state had been overcharged and cut Gerlach's reimbursement with a six figure knife.
Last April Gerlach's attorneys won a speedy not guilty verdict for their client, sparing him what could have been a life sentence. After submitting a bill for $332,000 Gerlach's defense team found themselves defending claims it really shouldn't have taken three lawyers to try the case.
"No explanation is needed as to exactly why Mr. Gerlach needed three attorneys to represent him. He requested this. He was facing a homicide charge and he wanted every angle of this covered as much as possible because of the severity of the charge," defense attorney Richard Lee said.
Lee was charging $300 an hour. Prosecutors say at that premium rate, Lee shouldn't have needed rely on other attorneys to help him with things like jury selection.
"Mr. Lee should have not had to bring in anybody to do those things for him, if he wants to bill $300 an hour, these are things he ought to know himself," deputy prosecutor Deric Martin said.
Prosecutors also questioned why Lee would bill the state for drafting jury instructions the same day he officially became Gerlach's attorney and went on to accuse the defense teams of padding their bill.
"They spent more hours on this case in their closing arguments than the entire case should have taken in terms of litigation, they duplicated each others efforts repeatedly, they both attended numerous things that one attorney could have attended on his own," Martin said.
Plese agreed and cut expert witness fees in half, denying attorney travel expenses and cutting the overall bill by more than $100,000.
The Gerlachs themselves had hoped to get back $5,000 in donations they had received from supporters, but their request came in late and was not considered by the court.
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