Attorneys: Cost of Hembree trials, appeals could hit $8 million

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — After accusations of a sexual relationship with a prosecutor and another woman’s outburst led to a mistrial for a convicted killer, questions are beginning to surface of what the trials are costing Gaston County.

Based on information from both prosecutors and the defense team, the mistrial of Danny Hembree cost the county about $160,000. That does not include the $600 per day paid for jurors, their meals and the cost of driving them to and from Rutherford County.

All of the receipts for Hembree’s second murder trial have not yet been turned in, but attorneys provided their estimates.

The defense said it cost about $150,000 for expert witnesses, mental evaluations, investigations and salaries for two attorneys to prepare and try the case that ended in a mistrial.

District Attorney Locke Bell said salaries for prosecutors are already covered in his office’s budget, but they spent an additional $10,000 on the trial.

Bell said he intends to try the case again next year and has been assured the same thing will not happen again.

“You can’t tell the family of a murder victim it’s too expensive to try this case,” he said.

Hembree’s attorneys are now done with his case, so another attorney will be appointed. But they said they thought the retrial and death penalty appeals from the first trial will push the cost of trials for Hembree above $8 million.

Hembree is already on Death Row for the murder of 17-year-old Heather Catterton. He was being tried for the death of Randi Saldana.