A judge ruled Wednesday that the illegal immigrant accused of murdering 20-year-old college Mollie Tibbetts in Brooklyn, Iowa, be granted $3,200 in state taxpayer funds for an expert witness for his upcoming murder trial.
Lawyers for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, who is charged with first-degree murder, said the stipend is needed to hire a forensic expert with Criminal Case Consultants in Buffalo, N.Y. The expert can provide insight on interrogation techniques and analytical investigative methods given the “length, context, language barriers and other factors involved in the police interrogation” of Rivera, Chase Frese, Rivera’s lawyer, said in the motion.
The stipend is required for the expert to begin looking into those issues but doesn’t cover costs of testimony at trial or travel expenses, Frese said in the motion. The defense will make separate requests for those funds if necessary.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Joel Yates approved the stipend Tuesday, saying a financial affidavit filed with the court shows Rivera is indigent and qualifies for public funds, which will be paid by the state. If additional funds are needed, the defense will have to obtain court approval, the judge added.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown didn’t resist the motion for funds but disagreed with the defense’s “characterizations” of why the funds were needed. The defense has said a that a language barrier between law enforcement and Rivera caused confusion during police interviews on Aug. 20-21. The prosecution is not aware of any significant language barrier, Brown said.
Brown, in the motion, said authorities had an interpreter when they first spoke with Rivera on Aug. 20, and the police officers who conducted the majority another interview on Aug. 20 and 21 were fluent in Spanish. Spanish is the first language of the primary officer conducting those interviews, Brown added.
“The defendant never indicated a lack of understanding or any question due to a language barrier at either the farm or the sheriff’s office,” Brown said in the motion.
Source: The Gazette