Yale Murder Case Stirs Debate Over Expert Witness Costs
The case of Dr. Lishan Wang is anything but typical, right down to the debate it has stirred over whether the state should have to pay for his defense experts.
Wang is accused of fatally shooting a Yale University doctor, Vajinder Toor, outside his Branford home in 2010. Wang also allegedly fired shots at Toor's pregnant wife.
Wang had a history of confrontations with Toor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in New York where Toor once supervised Wang.
A dispute between doctors leading to murder is certainly rare. But Wang's murder case is proving to be even more peculiar as it proceeds in the criminal court system.
Wang, a Chinese citizen who was unemployed and living in Georgia before the shooting, has been deemed indigent by the court. Because of that designation, he is eligible for public defender services.
However, Wang, who remains in prison on $900,000 cash bond, wants to represent himself. And in doing so, he wants to hire expert witnesses to help his defense. Since expert witnesses do not come cheap, that request has opened the debate over who should foot the bill.
The Office of the Public Defender argues that they should not have to pay for the witnesses if Wang isn't going to use their services for his defense. (A stand-by public defender has been appointed in case Wang needs his assistance at trial or changes his mind about representing himself.)
The state Judicial Branch, who in the past has paid for services needed by a pro se defendant, also insists that it doesn't have funding in their budget for such expenditures.
An attorney appointed for Wang strictly to help sort out these pre-trial issues has asked the state Supreme Court to help resolve the dispute.
"How that specifically gets funded is neither here nor there in the eyes of the defendant," said his court-appointed private attorney, Max Simmons."Other than making the general point that a state agency is saying 'we don't have the money for this' is not a good enough answer. Someone has to find the funding for that."