Jury trials cost local counties big

Jury trials cost local counties big »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- The court system often offers plea deals as a way of saving time and money, but many cases still go to trial.

And despite two murder trials already completed in Benton County, it's Franklin County that's spending a lot on trials this year.

Putting the right guy in jail is always a plus for our court system. But when a deal can't be reached with a defendant, a jury of their peers has to be called in - and that comes at a huge cost to taxpayers.

Benton County spends around $70,000 a year on jury trials. And despite what seems like a slew of jury trials there, Benton County is actually pacing below its budgeted rate.

Meanwhile, Franklin County is slammed.

"We've just had trials every single week this year, one to two, and that all stems from the prosecuting attorney's office not being able to get a negotiation or a settlement from the other side," said Franklin County Clerk Michael Killian.

Franklin County spends around $70,000 a year for those trials. But so far this year, 17 jury trials have cost taxpayers more than $60,000

When it comes to jury trials, the biggest cost isn't overtime to defense attorneys or prosecutors, but actually paying for the jury's gas money.

Jurors are reimbursed 56 cents for every mile they have to travel and, when you have counties that cover as much ground as ours, that can be a huge distance.

"That's the biggest cost, then we have our $10 a day that we pay the jurors," Killian said.

$10 may not seem like a lot, but just last week, Franklin County tried a sexual predator, and they had to call in 88 jurors.

"Times that times ten plus the mileage, and that adds up pretty quick," Killian said.

Franklin County is on pace to spend more than $100,000 on jury trials this year - well above the average. And, at the same time, Pasco had one of its safest years ever last year.

Reporter: "Are you guys expecting a pretty big year?"
Killian: "We are, just from our prior history this year already, and it just all depends on the crime rate in the county as well."

Franklin County has spent almost $250,000 on jury trials since 2011. By this time next year, that could be over $300,000.