FREEMAN, Wash. -- Court documents show Spokane County will have to pay up to $3,500 for an expert to evaluate 15-year-old Caleb Sharpe.
However, that could be just the beginning. The expert retained for his defense estimated costs could reach $18,000 plus, according to the court filing. Documents show the expert, “requires an upfront retainer of $3,500 and has calculated costs for Phase 1, estimating $18,000 plus expenses."
So why does the public have to pay for this? It is because the judge ruled the 15-year-old is indigent, meaning he has no money to pay for his own defense. Court documents filed show the judge signed the order for pre-authorization of funds at public expense. The judge ruled the expert is necessary and the defendant is indigent.
His parents do not have to pay for the expert either because of state law.
The 15-year-old himself also had to file a financial declaration saying he has no money. In it he writes, "My parents were not comfortable with a public defender on the criminal charges and retained Mr. Maxey providing him with all money they had available for an attorney. I am respectfully asking the court to find me indigent for purposes of retaining experts to aid in my defense of this case."
Sharpe's attorney, Bevan Maxey, also filed a motion to appoint the expert at the County's expense. The motion reads in part, “Although, money is provided to Mr. Sharpe by his parents, his father is the head of the household and lacks sufficient funds to hire a private expert who specializes in the needed area. Although I am privately retained, the money for my representation came from the family and there are no further funds available." It goes on to say, “Based upon the seriousness of the charges, the controversial nature of the charges and the case itself, we respectfully ask the Court to find Mr. Sharpe indigent and to order County funds available for his defense in this case."
The hired expert specializes in forensic and clinical psychology and will determine if the 15-year-old is capable of rehabilitation, whether he completely understands the nature of his acts, and will evaluate his level of capability, as well as, his emotional and mental well-being.
Court documents show the expert expects to have his findings completed before the declination hearing, which is currently set for April 2, 2018.
If more public funds are needed for the teenager's defense, another motion would have to be filed and approved before more County money is spent. Court documents read, “Any additional fee over the maximum amount authorized shall be pursuant to further motion and order of this court.”
KREM 2 also learned it is not uncommon for the public to have to pick up the tab in cases like this.