Court Rejects Winchester Murder Suspect's Claim

In a series of rulings today, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled criminal defendants in Massachusetts must prove that they can’t afford their own attorney.

The Supreme Judicial Court rejected Thomas Mortimer IV’s claim that his retirement account cannot be used to help pay for his defense today.

Mortimer’s lawyer said the money in an IRA account cannot be considered liquid assets, but the court felt differently, according to Boston.com. Retirement account funds can be considered when calculating whether a defendant is indigent, and the court said that money could be used to contribute to Mortimer’s defense.

‘‘Defendants with substantial savings in IRAs, accessible after forfeiting an early withdrawal penalty, can reasonably be considered to have funds available for their defense and should be made to exhaust those accounts before the Commonwealth expends its limited resources on their representation,’’ Justice Robert Cordy wrote for the court in the unanimous ruling.

The Boston Herald also reported defendants must prove they are indigent when asking to have court-appointed lawyers taking the respondibilty away from probation officials to prove they can’t afford a lawyer.

Mortimer, 43,  in August of 2010 on four counts of murder in the first degree. He is accused of murdering his wife, 41-year-old Laura Stone Mortimer; her two children, 2-year-old Charlotte Mortimer and 4-year-old Thomas Mortimer V; and Laura's mother, 64-year-old Ragna Ellen Stone.

In February, Mortimer told the court that he deserves a publicly paid for defense attorney, but the state said they wanted him to pay with his children's college fund account, according to the Boston Herald.

 and should be able to pay some money to the state. Mortimer had a  Laura Stone Mortimer for $11,000. He also owns two cars, and he has his children's college savings account worth $25,000.

Mortimer's lawyers argued that the college fund was in his wife’s name, and he “had no direct access to the funds".

They also said these assets are unavailable to him under the "slayer statute" that prohibits inheritance by a person who murders someone from whom he or she stands to inherit.

Mortimer's lawyers argued he should be held indigent because he's unemployed, held without bail, $10,000 in debt to credit card companies and $3,000 behind to the Internal Revenue Service.

The trial is set to begin on Oct. 2.


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