Invoice for expert witness in Taunton trial causes conflict in F - - No One Gets You Closer

Invoice for expert witness in Taunton trial causes conflict in Fannin County

BONHAM -- Fannin County Commissioners learned this week they'll have to dip into a rainy-day fund to help cover the cost of a recent high-profile trial.

Thomas Taunton was convicted August 12 in the brutal murders of three family members.

While the case is over and done, a bill from an expert witness is now causing some conflict.

Attorneys for Taunton filed a "notice to raise insanity defense" two months before the trial was set to begin, a move that sent prosecutors at the Fannin County District Attorney's office scrambling.

"We'd been working on the case for two years and we thought that wasn't the case because he'd planned it and strategized it. So we were really taken aback," District Attorney Richard Glaser said.

To prepare, Glaser went before Fannin County Commissioners to ask for money to hire an expert witness to do a psychological examination on Taunton.

"He told us it was going to be between two and four thousand dollars," County Judge Spanky Carter said.

The commission agreed. Then Monday, came a surprise.

 "He comes down and he presents a bill to us for $25,000. As you can imagine we were shocked. Twenty-five thousand is a long way from $2-4,000 and we really had a problem with it," Judge Carter said.

The itemized invoice lists the cost of professional services as well as additional expenses like travel from California.

The most expensive line on the bill is for a 17-hour examination of Taunton on July 23 at the Fannin County jail. The total for the exam is $7,650.

The bill shows a balance due of $25,500.

"We don't have that kind of money to spend here in Fannin County as if it's a small amount because it's not. It's a large amount," Judge Carter said.

"It was a necessary expense," Glaser said.

Glaser stands by the decision to hire the witness who was never called to the testify because the insanity defense was never raised.

"I regret that we had to pay that much money but those victims deserve that trial," Glaser said.

He says the amount of work put into certain cases, like the Taunton trial, can be open-ended and that the consequence of not being fully prepared may have resulted in a much different outcome.

"We would've been in a real tight spot and might have gotten an acquittal," Glaser said.

Judge Carter says the county plans to pay for the bill by dipping into a contingency fund, which he says is nearly depleted.

Glaser says he's asked the county auditor to come up with a figure for the total amount of money spent on the case.