State v. Gable

State v. Gable, 2015 MT 200 (July 14, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in ordering Gable to pay the $36,920 cost of her appointed public defender.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: After a jury trial, Gable was convicted of murdering her husband, Joe, and Sunday Cooley Bennett. The presentence report recommended two consecutive 100-year sentences, and that Gable be ordered to pay the cost of counsel, as well as juror and witness fees. The state submitted a list of Gable’s assets, which included vehicles, $10,000 in cash, and a possible interest in another bank account.

Procedural Posture & Holding: At the sentencing hearing, Gable read a prepared statement, which did not address her means or ability to pay for her counsel. The presentence investigation author testified that Gable would probably not be able to get a paying job in prison as she is confined to a wheelchair. The district court sentenced Gable to two consecutive 100-year sentences, and concluded Gable had the ability to pay certain costs of her representation. It ordered her to pay $36,920 to OPD, $5,650.48 for juror fees, and $1,917.63 for witness fees. Gable objected only to the cost of counsel, arguing she was indigent. Gable appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Gable was on notice that she could be asked to pay for her counsel, and chose not to address her ability to pay in her statement to the Court. OPD’s determination of indigency, giving rise to appointed counsel, is not binding on the court. The district court had sufficient evidence that Gable had the ability to pay these costs. The Court finds the district court’s inquiry was scrupulous and meticulous, and therefore did not chill Gable’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

Because Gable did not object to the amount of OPD’s fees, the Court will not address this issue on appeal. However, OPD is required to itemize the hours, costs, and expenses of representation.