Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Robbing The Poor To Give To The Poor

We all know that "everything's bigger in Texas," except, it seems, the amount jurors get paid. Currently, Texas jurors get a paltry minimum wage of $6 per day, the lowest in the country according to SB 1704's House sponsor, Will Hartnett (R-Dallas). This bill, which was on the House floor this afternoon, would raise that to $40 per day, after the first day of jury duty.

The jurors' pay hike will come from the pockets of freshly convicted criminals. Under Hartnett's proposed amendment to the bill, that fee would be $11, with leftover cash after jurors are paid going to indigent defense.

That sounds fairly progressive for a Dallas republican, but Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) brought up a good point: the majority of convicted criminals in Texas are poor. Why should money for indigent defense come from the pockets of the poor? Why not just lower the fee so there is no leftover money? Hartnett snapped back at Turner, "If you get convicted of a crime, you have to pay."

Funny, but I always thought that such phrases referred to getting locked away, not an actual crime tax. It seems that Hartnett is all for indigent defense, so long as the indigent foot the bill.