Hannah Barker declared indigent; taxpayers to pay for expert witnesses


By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com
Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for Hannah Barker’s defense.
Barker was declared indigent in a Natchitoches courtroom Monday, June 8.
District Judge Desiree Dyess allowed only one exception, Barker will have to pay her attorney.

She is charged with first-degree murder, and faces the death penalty, in the burning death of her 6-month-old son, Levi Cole Ellerbe July 17, 2018.
Barker’s attorney, Dhu Thompson, filed a motion June 1 to have her declared indigent for purposes other than attorney’s fees.

Court documents state Barker “has no assets or savings to pay for necessary experts or fund attorney’s proposed travel expenses, no control over any funds to pay legal expenses and is totally and completely indigent.” It further stated “It is crucial to her defense at this time to enable her to prepare an adequate defense and develop expert testimony.”
Four documents were entered as defense exhibits A-D Friday, June 5.

Exhibit A was an Affidavit of Indigency executed in Caddo Parish whereby Barker’s aunt stated under oath she has Power of Attorney for Barker and attested the defendant has no funds available to continue to fund her defense.

Exhibit A

A second Affidavit of Indigency, Exhibit B, was Barker’s sworn statement that she was “unemployed and incarcerated” and unable to fund her defense.

Exhibit B

The third document, Exhibit C, was a letter from John Whitehead, on behalf of Sabine State Bank, Barker’s financial institution, responding to a request for financial information. The request specified the dates of June 1-July 25, 2018, however Whitehead advised in the letter there was no information available within the requested time, however the defendant opened a checking account April 10, 2017, and was overdrawn $44.28, charged off and closed Nov. 16, 2017.

Exhibit C

Exhibit D was a 16-page document outlining the American Bar Association guidelines for defense in death penalty cases, including the “assistance of experts, investigators and mitigation specialists.”

Exhibit D

Barker’s trial is set for Oct. 16 in Natchitoches. Jurors will be seated from St. Landry Parish.
Barker allegedly concocted a plan with her girlfriend, Felicia Nicole Smith, to kill the infant. Smith is also charged with first-degree murder. Her trial is slated for January 2021.

A person who is eligible to be represented by a public defender under s. 27.51 but who is represented by private counsel not appointed by the court for a reasonable fee as approved by the court, on a pro bono basis, or who is proceeding pro se, may move the court for a determination that he or she is indigent for costs and eligible for the provision of due process services, as prescribed by ss. 29.006 and 29.007, funded by the State.

Levi Cole Ellerbe
6 months old
Former law enforcement officer Tim Key placed this wreath at the site where Levi Ellerbe tragically lost his life. The memorial was placed on behalf of the Natchitoches Police Dept., Natchitoches Sheriff’s Dept., Natchitoches Fire Dept., La State Fire Marshal’s Office, La. State Police, NSU Police Dept., 911 dispatchers and Natchitoches Regional Medical Center ER staff. Wreath provided by Jeanne’s Country Garden.
Photo courtesy Tim Key
Felicia Smith