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Drug Seizures Pay for Death Celebrations

In 1998 the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's Office shelled out $1,291.27 for steak dinners to celebrate three death penalty verdicts. The DA's office used money and other assets seized in drug arrests to bankroll the celebratory dinners at a local steak house.

District Attorney Doug Moreau said the dinners were more recognition for hard work and long hours than reward for obtaining a death verdict.

"We know what it is," said attorney Benn Hamilton, who represented a client who received the death penalty. "It is crude. It is morbid. It is an inappropriate use of public money."

Mike Mitchell, who directs a public defender's office said, "I don't think they go out to dinner on every case. If it's not to celebrate the death penalty, I don't know what it's for."

In fact, the DA's office did not spring for a steak dinner after the one capital case in 1998 in which the defendant escaped the death penalty by one vote.

Source: Associated Press

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