Court: Taxpayers must pay for defense in Yale University doctor's murder case
Hartford - A former doctor charged with killing a Yale University physician is constitutionally entitled to taxpayer dollars to pay for investigators and defense experts as he represents himself in the murder case, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The high court also said in the unanimous ruling written by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers that the public funds for Lishan Wang's experts should come from the state Office of the Chief Public Defender, which had opposed paying the costs. The decision applies to all indigent criminal defendants who represent themselves after refusing public defender services.
Wang, 48, whose last address was in Marietta, Ga., is charged with murder in the shooting death of Dr. Vajinder Toor in 2010 outside Toor's home in Branford. He's also charged with attempted murder for shooting at Toor's pregnant wife, who wasn't harmed.
Authorities say the shooting appeared to stem from a dispute Wang had with Toor and other doctors while they all worked together at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in New York City. Wang was fired from the medical center in 2008 after a series of confrontations with Toor and other colleagues.
Police said Wang went to Toor's home with handguns, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and documents on two other people involved in his job dismissal. A Branford officer who pulled Wang over near Interstate 95 after the shooting said he believes he may have prevented other killings.
Toor, 34, who came to the U.S. from India in 2004, was a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine.
Wang, a native of China, was declared indigent and qualified for a state public defender, but decided to represent himself and waived his right to a public defender.
Wang said the state should pay for his experts. He has said that he wants to hire forensic expert Henry Lee, who ran the state crime lab for years and rose to prominence through his work in infamous cases including those of O.J. Simpson and Jon Benet Ramsey.
"We conclude that an indigent self-represented criminal defendant has a fourteenth amendment due process right to (publicly) funded expert or investigative services," Rogers wrote.
The public defenders' office argued that state law didn't authorize it to pay for experts for self-represented defendants who waived their right to a public defender. Chief Public Defender Susan O. Storey said the Judicial Branch historically has paid expenses for self-represented litigants.
"This question has surfaced many times throughout the last 30 years," Storey said. "I expect our agency will definitely be financially impacted by this decision."
It wasn't immediately clear how much the extra costs to the public defenders' office will be.
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