Prosecutor says cases may fail for lack of funds

May 02, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County's chief prosecutor warned the County Council yesterday that his office is so strapped that it may lose some hTC felony cases for lack of time to prepare or because it is unable to comply with the requirement for a speedy trial.

William R. Hymes, the state's attorney, said his office is overwhelmed by a combination of factors -- 13 pending murder trials, the departure of several experienced prosecutors, a lack of courtroom space and judges, and budget cuts.

"I don't want this to come as a shock to anyone, but we don't have the resources to do the job," he said. ". . . There is a good possibility we will lose cases."

Mr. Hymes, a Democrat starting his fourth term, said he did not believe there was a quick fix.

"The council can't solve the problem," he said. "We need one or two more courtrooms and at least one more circuit judge. We would need at least three prosecutors to get over the current problems."

The county has four judges on the Circuit Court.

Mr. Hymes said County Executive Charles I. Ecker cut $215,000 from his requested $2.5 million budget. To make matters worse, seven veteran prosecutors left recently.

"You can say that the loss of the experienced attorneys is the straw that broke the camel's back," he said. The state's attorney noted that the murder trial of Eric Tirado, charged in the slaying of State Police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf on March 29, 1990, will probably take 12 weeks.

"We cannot keep up with the expenses for witnesses alone. . . . There are 204 witnesses in the Tirado case with 100 coming from out of state. The expenses in that case are more than I have in my entire [witness] budget," he said.

Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he was "upset we have these kind of needs, and the executive is oblivious."

Mr. Ecker, a Republican, said he was surprised by the state's attorney's remarks. He said he was "confident that the state's attorney's office can function well because [Mr. Hymes] assured me they could."

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