Miller County Prosecutor: proud of many duties with fewer resources than public defender

Prosecutor Benjamin Winfrey released a statement Tuesday ahead of a caseload conference in Miller County (Photo Courtesy Benjamin Winfrey/Facebook). 

Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Winfrey released a statement Tuesday, expanding upon his thoughts on an upcoming caseload conference meant to address the public defender's caseload problem in the county.

The conference, which is scheduled on December 22, could help determine what, if any, relief Public Defender Justin Carver is entitled to in Miller County.

"A strong public defender system is necessary to a strong democracy," the statement read Tuesday. "However, Prosecuting Attorney Winfrey will also remind the community that the Miller County Prosecuting Attorney's Office handles thousands of cases at anytime (far more than the public defender in Miller County)."

Winfrey said this year alone, his office will file nearly 1,600 criminal cases. Those don't include traffic violations and other infractions filed daily, in addition to handling cases from previous years, according to Winfrey.

Those cases, Winfrey said, include crimes ranging from murder and child molestation to misdemeanor theft.

"In addition, the Miller County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is responsible for serving as the county’s attorney, which means managing litigation, reviewing and negotiating contracts, and other jobs of a private attorney," the statement read.

The office is responsible for numerous other responsibilities such as managing the Infant Fatality Review Board to review the causes of Miller County child fatalities, according to Winfrey.

"Winfrey and his staff are very proud to shoulder the honor of filing these many duties for the people of Miller County with fewer resources than the Public Defender," the statement read.

"It's comparing apples to oranges," Carver told KRCG13 Tuesday. "There's work that they do that I don't do and there's work that I do that they don't do."

"Once our client is charged, at that point we've got to meet with our client, get their background, and do an independent investigation of our own," said Carver.

Carver said he sometimes spends an entire day seeing a handful of clients in jail. "When you've got 200, half of whom are in jail, it's going to take a considerable amount of time to meet with those people and talk to them," Carver said.

According to the Miller County budget for Fiscal Year 2017, the prosecutor's office budget was appropriated $273,450. Those costs include salaries of all staff, equipment, office expenses, mileage, fees, dues, and insurance.

According to the Missouri State Public Defender Commission's annual report for FY2017, the Area 19 office (Carver's office) has a budget of $591,162 to split between the three counties it serves: Moniteau, Miller, and Cole.

Cole County's FY2017 budget showed the prosecutor's office was appropriated $1,263,989, while the Moniteau County prosecuting attorney's office was appropriated $232,768.

The total budget for all three offices is more than $1.7 million. Carver noted the public defender's office has a third of that budget.

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