Longform

Death-Penalty Lawyers Are Making a Killing Off Maricopa Taxpayers

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Jim Logan tried cases as a public defender for years, earning the respect of judges and opposing prosecutors along the way.

These days, as the director of the Office of Public Defender Services, he is a bureaucrat in a rigorous job, part of which is to try to save the county money while overseeing the appointment of supposedly qualified attorneys to represent death-eligible clients.

Logan said at the onset of last week's sometimes-contentious interview with New Times that he suspected a "hit piece" against him was in the works.

"I am very aware that some guys have billed for a lot of money," Logan said shortly after the interview began, "but I have not seen what I would call overly excessive invoices under the circumstances."

He continued, "The buck does stop with me, and I take that responsibility very seriously. When I see discrepancies or I suspect that someone has been overcharging or not billing accurately, I act on it. I have docked people on the contract, more than once. I have stopped assigning people to cases, including Nate Carr — and that was four years ago — just because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time."

At first, Logan hinted at a possible "he said/he said" personality conflict between the defense attorneys in the Naranjo case. But he quickly changed his mind after learning from New Times about Nate Carr's false avowals in the November 2010 "prison interviews" billings, for which the attorney collected almost $2,000.

"That would be serious business, fraudulent," Logan said tersely.

At that point, Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick spoke up for the first time late in the interview.

"If we determined that these allegations merit a criminal investigation, we will refer this to the County Attorney's Office," Gerchick said.

For now, Nate Carr and Steve Johnson continue to do fine, money-wise.

Maricopa County paid Carr $125,000 for the first half of this year. Still, this puts him on track for his least lucrative year since 2005, about $250,000 if the second half is about the same as the first.

Steve Johnson collected $133,000 for the first six months of this year.

Last week, when New Times contacted Taylor Fox with follow-up questions, he expressed concern about the rumors he had been hearing about his role in this story.

He said friends in the criminal-defense community have told him that Nate Carr has been trying to sell the "he said/he said" riff that Jim Logan retreated from during his interview.

The circumspect Fox concluded by saying:

"I have thought hard about this, and I'll just say it. If you would ask me if I felt that Nate and Steve's lack of real work on the Naranjo case could have affected the outcome of our client going to death row, my answer would be yes, it could have. There is something fundamentally wrong that happened here — on many levels."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin