SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - The San Luis Obispo County court system is dealing with more murders this year than ever before. In response, the Board of Supervisors approved new funding for more appointed public defenders.
The District Attorney's office is currently prosecuting seven active murder cases and investigating another five, a scenario causing a heavy workload for the public defender's office.
“This is an unprecedented amount of homicide cases that we are prosecuting at one time,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow.
The DA's office says it has not decided whether they will pursue the death penalty for three of those homicide cases. The law requries that defendants get more resources from the public defender's office if prosecutors seek the death penalty.
“Capital cases where special circumstance have been alleged, if we have not yet elected whether or not we are going to seek death penalty or life without parole, then the defended is afforded to have an attorney with certain qualifications,” said Dow.
The Board of Supervisors approved additional funds to the appointed public defenders to accommodate these requirements.
“We approved approximately $120,000 for the remainder of this year. The ongoing cost will probably be somewhere around $150,000 per year to pay for these extra needs,” said 5th District SLO County Board of Supervisor Debbie Arnold.
Two of the capital murder cases being pursued include Carlo Flores, accused of raping and murdering Nancy Woodrum. Along with Daniel Rodriguez Johnson, accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend.
"Just to illustrate how unusual that is the last time they were assigned a capital case was the year 2000, and prior to that, it was the 1980's. So this was a little bit different and an unanticipated need," said Arnold.