OGDEN — The Weber County Commission approved contracts for four local attorneys to represent an Ogden couple in their death penalty cases — but not without one commissioner voicing his frustration with the situation.
The commission approved the contracts for the attorneys representing Miller Costello and Brenda Emile, two Ogden residents accused of killing their 3-year-old daughter in 2017.
Each have two attorneys representing them as a part of the Rule 8 stipulation in the state rules of criminal procedure.
The lead attorney for each defendant will be paid $170 per hour and the secondary attorney will be paid $140 an hour, according to the contracts for both sets of attorneys. For each plaintiff, the combined fees for the two attorneys must not exceed $100,000.
Prosecutors filed their intent to seek the death penalty against both Costello and Emile earlier this month.
Contracts for public defenders do not cover death penalty cases, which made the issue of public defender contracts the center of the previous hearing for Costello and Emile.
Defense attorneys asked to continue the hearing so they could sort out the issue of contracts with the state. The conflict made Tuesday’s county commission meeting a necessary step in moving the case along.
During the meeting, Commissioner James Ebert asked how much these cases typically cost, and Bryan Baron, deputy civil attorney for the Weber County Attorney’s Office said the past nine cases had an average cost of $220,000 in total.
Baron added that Weber County does not contribute to the trust managed by the Indigent Defense Commission that pays all fees associated with defense attorneys in death penalty cases.
All counties in Utah except Weber, Salt Lake, Summit, Utah and Wasatch counties contribute to that program. Weber County puts the County Attorney’s Office in charge of finding, contracting and paying for the defendant’s attorney.
The Indigent Defense Fund has paid for the defense counsel in 29 cases from 2005 to February 2018, according to state documents obtained by the Standard-Examiner through an public records request. Some of the cases are still active but, so far, none of them have received the death penalty.
Commissioner Jim Harvey said the fact that the commission doesn’t have the ability to reject the motion was unsettling.
“I don’t like being painted into a corner,” Harvey said. “Basically our hands are tied.”
Harvey said it’s frustrating to him that crimes like this happen in the community and taxpayer money is used to foot the bill.
“That bothers me,” he said.
Shortly after, the commission approved the measure, ensuring the cases of Costello and Emile will continue as scheduled.
The next court hearing for the two is scheduled for Aug. 13 in Ogden’s 2nd District Court.