Christopher and Jason Harris were accused of killing five members of
a Beason family in 2009 and of the attempted murder of a child who
survived. Costs for the trials of the two men were predicted to
range from $800,000 to $1 million or more.
The timing of the tragedy was unfortunate in how it would cost
the county. In March 2009, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed
legislation abolishing the death penalty. With that action, the
state-held capital litigation fund, intended for use to aid such
large, costly trials, was no longer available.
However, the Illinois attorney general's office did become
involved and provided assistance in the form of attorneys to
co-prosecute the case against Christopher Harris.
County finance chairman Chuck Ruben told the board that
congratulations were in order for Logan County State's Attorney
Jonathan Wright for all of the work he and his office employees put
into the Harris trial. Ruben said that some of the final bills are
still coming in, and the final cost should come to around $400,000.
Wright inherited the case from Michael McIntosh, who was then the
state's attorney. Wright was an assistant state's attorney and was
involved with prosecution of the case from its beginning.
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By request of the defense, the trial before a jury was moved to
Peoria, adding to the cost.
There, Christopher Harris was found guilty.
Some of the costs were reduced when Jason Harris took a plea
bargain and only one trial was required.
On Thursday, board members gave Wright a round of applause.
Wright said he appreciated the applause, and he accepted it only
on behalf of all of the people who worked hard on this case. Wright
said that everyone involved worked countless hours, and that without
the aid of the attorney general's office, Wright's office would have
been shut down for months.
[By DEREK HURLEY / LDN]
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