Morgan State’s Attorney Says Appellate Prosecutor’s Contract Integral In Handling Timely Appeals

By Benjamin Cox on November 24, 2023 at 1:45pm

The Morgan County Commissioner approved the annual contract with the state’s Appellate Prosecutor Office on Monday.

The new contract went up by $1,000 from the previous year to $15,000, which returns the annual contract to its pre-pandemic level. State’s Attorney Gray Noll says that the contract actually is a cost savings to the county’s taxpayers because of the assistance the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office provides for his office: “Virtually every single criminal trial we do here in Morgan County gets appealed on some basis. If the Morgan County State’s Attorney’s Office would be forced to handle those appeals, we would need one appellate attorney if not two to do that. Every year the commissioners are kind enough to approve a resolution that solidifies the relationship that my office has with the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office. In exchange for a county payment of $15,000, they handle all of the appeals that come out of our office both on criminal trial matters and now, on the SAFE-T Act detention hearings. All of those pretrial detention hearings are currently being appealed, and they are handling those as well.”

Noll says that the pretrial detention hearing appeals can slow down the court hearing process: “I believe we have had about 10 pretrial detention hearings, and each one of those has been appealed. With some of those, ultimately the individual has plead guilty so the appeal is then withdrawn before a full hearing or anything.”

The SAFE-T Act has been in effect since September 18th. Noll does expect the number of pretrial detention appeals to go up as we move further into the new year: “Who knows how many detention hearings we will have? They are very fact specific. An individual not only has to commit a qualifying offense that would be detainable but also meet certain other factors, so it’s a difficult thing to predict but I don’t see these numbers going down.”

Noll says that if the county commissioners didn’t approve the annual contract with the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, the state’s attorney’s office would have to hire another full-time attorney just to handle appeals alone, which in turn would more than double the cost to the county’s taxpayers.