Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder is preparing to try one of the most high profile cases in the county's history. But months away, he already sees a crisis.
"In this situation, next summer I see a big demand on attorneys, especially with the Jennifer Heckel homicide case. We suspect trials will take at least three weeks,” Schroeder said.
There are only six attorneys in his office. Schroeder suspects half of them will be involved in trying the two men accused of killing Hutchinson mother, Jennifer Heckel, back in June.
"In this particular case, we need three attorneys. It's that complex of a case,” Schroeder said.
That's why he asked the county commission to help him hire an intern or two, so experienced attorneys can concentrate on preliminary hearings and trials.
"Having an intern, or two interns, would give us an opportunity to handle some of the traffic and misdemeanor cases. Give them the experiences they're not going to get in a book or the classroom,” Schroeder said.
Eyewitness News talked with County Commissioner Brad Dillon. He says the commission is aware the D.A.'s office needs help. Schroeder says in the worst case scenario, the two interns would cost the county about 8-thousand-dollars.
"It's a lot cheaper than hiring a private attorney to come in and handle the cases at the rate a veteran attorney may charge,” Schroeder said.
Or, Schroeder would have to ask for help from the state attorney general's office. But as a former intern himself, Schroeder prefers the intern option. And while the law students will get real world experience, Schroeder says they would not be directly involved in the handling of the Heckel case.
"I could see at some point, one of them becoming somebody that would be an assistant,” Schroeder said.
The county commission asked Schroeder to come back with a detailed proposal before it will approve the spending. Schroeder says grants and scholarships may help make the hiring of interns even cheaper.