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PANEL OKS NEW PLAN FOR HOMICIDE TEAM

Chautauqua County is a step closer to getting a countywide homicide task force in place.

County lawmakers last year turned down the proposal by District Attorney James Subjack. But the Legislature's Judicial and Public Safety Committee Tuesday night approved a revised plan.

"Last year's proposal was for $5,000 in the budget to cover any expenses that outlying police agencies may have had," Subjack said. "This (new plan) doesn't involve any expenditure to any other agency, but it does approve intermunicipal cooperation agreements with all other agencies."

Subjack's goal is to implement a team of specially-trained homicide investigators.

"What we want is the best of the best that the county has to offer when it comes to investigating the most violent of crimes," he said.

"It will benefit everyone in the county. Just because a murder may occur in Jamestown or Westfield, for example, doesn't mean the only people affected are in Jamestown or Westfield. A homicide is everyone's problem and it is in everyone's best interest to solve it with the best resources we have available," Subjack added.

The committee also agreed county Public Defender Richard Slater should be given the authority to act as a capital defender. Under state law, only designated attorneys can defend cases involving the death penalty, and those lawyers must have special training.

Committee Chairman Robert Kolodziej, R-Fredonia, said the designation would save the county $175 an hour when it needs a capital defender. That is the price for hiring an outside attorney.

"Our public defender has undergone about seven months of training to enable him to act in that capacity," Kolodziej said. "Otherwise, we would have to get a qualified public defender from another county if a capital offense occurs."

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