Short trial cuts costs for county
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 30, 2010 1:46 PM
Messenger Staff Writer
Wayne County spent more than $16,000 -- mostly in overtime for sheriff's deputies -- on the first-degree murder trial of Cesar Laurean.
Laurean, a ex-Marine, was found guilty Aug. 23 in Wayne County Superior Court for the murder of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach on Dec. 14, 2007. The trial was moved from Onslow County to Wayne County because of pretrial publicity.
Costs are still being tallied, and it is possible that most, if not all, of the money spent on deputies could be recouped, Sheriff Carey Winders said.
"There might be some reimbursements as far as security," Winders said. "I am not sure if we can use court facilities fees. That is why we kept them (salaries) separate. We hope to get part, if not all, back."
The cost will come out of his office's budget, Winders said. He said he does not think he will have to ask county commissioners for more money.
"We will absorb it," he said.
Winders said he will be able to do so by utilizing lapsed salaries.
He noted that some officers retire or leave the department after salaries are approved. Also, the department has one officer who is currently deployed with the military. In cases like that, the person's job is held open for him or her until he or she returns.
However, the salary, like that of those who leave, remains in the budget, he said.
The trial's failure to generate the anticipated level of media and public attention and the fact that it lasted less than two weeks instead of a month helped keep expenses down, county officials said.
Local preparations began months prior to the Aug. 9 start of what had been expected to a month-long trial. Early planning had even included the possibility of blocking off streets around the county courthouse.Those plans were dropped. However, GATEWAY bus stops near the courthouse square were temporarily moved because of anticipated traffic and parking congestion that never materialized.
"We were pleased with the quick and efficient progress of the trial," County Manager Lee Smith said. 'The financial impact on the county was somewhat lessened because the trial did not last as long as had been anticipated."
However, while the trial was over more quickly than expected and traffic wasn't as bad as initially feared, the Sheriff's Office averaged spending about $1,000 a day for added courthouse security.
Winders said 11 deputies were stationed in the courthouse totaling about 600 hours.
Two deputies each were stationed in the courtroom, front door, side doors and entrance. Another three were downstairs.
Additional costs, if any, for the courthouse's regular security detail were not available prior to presstime today.
It cost $50 a day to house Laurean who detention officers said had been a "model prisoner," Winders said.
Winders said the trial had gone "smoothly."
"From what we have heard, everybody is very well-pleased at how we handled it, the judges, the prosecution," he said.
Before the trial had started the county had already spent $5,631.71 for a freezer to store evidence for the trial. Smith has been concerned that the county will face the burden of storing the evidence for years.
He is hopeful that Judge W. Osmond Smith, who presided over the trial, will free the county from that obligation by ordering that the evidence be returned to Onslow County where the case originated.