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Judge orders public defender for man accused in fatal Independence eviction shooting

Kansas City Star
The judge overseeing the criminal case against an Independence man accused of fatally shooting an Independence police officer and a Jackson County court employee last month has ordered the state public defender’s office to provide him an attorney.

The ruling, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court Monday, came after the Missouri State Public Defender’s office previously determined Larry Acree, 69, was ineligible for its services because of his financial status.

In an order directing the public defender’s office to designate an attorney to represent Acree, Judge W. Page Bellamy wrote that he considered financial information he had received for the man “including debts or expenses owing, assets, income, dependents, and his ability or inability to make a bond.”

Acree had appealed the Missouri State Public Defender’s denial, which had said his “income and/or available assets” exceeded their guidelines, according to court documents. Bellamy wrote that he had considered the circumstances and found Acree did not have adequate means to retain private counsel.

“Further, it is the court’s experience that the pool of available private attorneys who might be willing and able to provide legal services in this case could be limited,” Bellamy wrote. “And, the court cannot exclude the possibility that factors other than purely financial considerations could exist preventing the defendant from obtaining private legal counsel.”

Acree faces two counts of first-degree murder as well as first-degree assault and armed criminal action charges in the shooting that left 41-year-old Jackson County civil process server Drexel Mack and 35-year-old Independence police officer Cody Allen dead.

The back and forth over Acree’s financial status comes against the backdrop of him losing his home in northeast Independence over back taxes, court records show. That led to eviction proceedings, during which Acree is accused of fatally shooting Mack and Allen Feb. 29.

In his ruling, Bellamy also noted that given the nature of the charges, “…it would not be unusual for prospective legal service expenses to also include, in addition to an attorney/attorneys, an investigator, expert witnesses, and the taking of depositions. It is also the court’s experience that the costs of those services would greatly exceed the defendant’s financial abilities to pay based on the information that has been made available to the court.”

Bellamy said the public defender’s office could investigate Acree’s financial status further and said he would be required to contribute to the cost of his defense if it was determined he was able to without it imposing a “substantial hardship.”

Acree has remained in jail on a $2 million cash bond. His next hearing is scheduled Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence.

Cameras have not allowed in the courtroom thus far, since Acree has not been represented by an attorney.

The Star’s Robert Cronkleton contributed reporting to this story.

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