Strip shooting suspect Ammar Harris claims he can't afford an attorney despite the YouTube videos in which he appears flaunting stacks of cash. A judge assigned Harris a public defender, and many are wondering why he can't afford his own representation.
Harris faces three murder charges after police say he opened fire on a Maserati on the Las Vegas Strip, resulting in a crash that killed three people. On Wednesday he appeared in a Clark County courtroom and requested a public defender.
FOX5 viewer Steve asks, "How come we have to foot the bill for (Harris') trial and everything with the public defender? As the taxpayer, how come we don't go after his assets and his money and everything else that he has?"
Attorney Tony Liker says there is no system to verify that indigent defendants are in fact indigent. It's a loophole he says he's been trying to close for years. "It's kind of like the honor system. You're asking somebody that may be a repeat criminal to go on the honor system and put how much assets they have and how much they make, and there's no investigation done," he explained.
Nevada law says defendants can request a public defender if they don't have the means of employing their own lawyer and can provide facts to the judge concerning their financial state. Then it's up to a judge to decide if the defendant needs a public defender.
Liker says he's never seen a judge second-guess an application for a public defender, and he's never seen the courts go after a defendant's personal assets for payment. He also says assigning public defenders to clients that don't actually need their services can hurt the ones that do. "The people that are truly indigent are getting less time with their attorneys because people are cheating the system," Liker said.
Liker says when defendants like Harris are in full-time custody, they don't always have a source of income. He says it is possible that Harris can't pay for an attorney on his own.
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