Circuit judge delays Yost murder trial

Defense attorney's request for funds to cover expenses denied

A judge granted a request from Donna Yost's attorney to delay her murder trial, but refused to have the court pay up to $15,000 for expenses the lawyer says are necessary to launch a proper defense.

Defense Attorney Edward M. Czuprynski, who's representing Yost free of charge, implored Bay County Circuit Judge William J. Caprathe to provide court money to bring in experts and investigators to help in Yost's defense.

Czuprynski noted that similar expenses for the 2000 preliminary examination of the evidence against Yost were covered in district court. Yost is charged with murdering her daughter, Monique, in October of 1999. The 7-year-old died of an overdose of anti-depressant medication.

But Caprathe said Yost declined the services of the court-appointed attorney assigned to her case at the circuit court level, and could not now ask the court to help pay for her privately arranged defense.

"This is a message to the bar (attorneys)," Caprathe said during Thursday morning's hearing. "You can't have your cake and eat it, too. Either an individual is indigent and accepts a court-appointed attorney" or hires his or her own without public money to help pay the bill.

Caprathe said he'd allow Yost to rethink her decision to retain Czuprynski and go forward with a court-appointed attorney, but she said after court she'd stick with the man who's represented her for five years in the matter. The courts appoint attorneys to cases of indigent clients on a rotating basis -- clients aren't allowed to choose which lawyer taxpayers will fund.

Czuprynski said the ruling puts him and Yost in a bind.

"If I want to be on the case, I've got to fork out $15,000," he said. "If I'm willing to get off the case, then (the court) will provide the experts she needs for the defense.

"The effect will be to discourage lawyers from doing pro-bono (free) work for indigent clients. Lawyers are willing to lose time and income on a major case like this ... the whole concept they taught us in law school is to serve the needy by doing this kind of work."

At the preliminary evidence hearing, Czuprynski brought in medical and psychological experts, including one from Washington, D.C., who discussed child suicides. Czuprynski also said he needs to hire an investigator to track down information recently revealed by prosecutors. Bay City detectives have interviewed several of Yost's former cell mates during her nine-month stay in the Bay County Jail, and plan to call them to testify at trial. Yost is now free on a personal recognizance bond.

Caprathe adjourned the Aug. 24 trial date, and gave Yost a week to decide whether she wanted a court-appointed attorney or would continue with Czuprynski defending her.

Czuprynski said he's considering an emergency appeal of the ruling that denies him his expenses.

At the request of Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kurt Asbury, Caprathe ordered the videotaped deposition of one of Yost's former cell mates, whom a Bay City detective interviewed in a California federal prison. The woman, an illegal alien, is now being held in the Bay County Jail awaiting deportation to Mexico.

- Crystal Harmon covers Bay County courts for The Times. She may be reached at 894-9643.

© 2004 Bay City Times. Used with permission

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© 2004 Bay City Times. Used with permission.
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