Sydney, Mar 29: A US court has reportedly rejected Indian doctor Dr Jayant Patel's plea of getting a government-funded lawyer to represent him in his trial. The court asked him to foot the bill himself as he had enough money for the purpose. Dr Patel, currently in custody, was represented by US government-funded lawyer Susan Russell for his first two court appearances following his arrest at his home in Portland, Oregon, on March 11. The accused will soon be receiving a bill for Russell's service.
The doctor had acquired the sobriquet "Dr Death" for botching several surgeries resulting in his death of nearly 16 patients.
After examining Dr Patel's financial information, US District Court judge Dennis Hubel ruled that Dr Patel not only had enough money and assets to pay for his own lawyer, but "many times the sum" to pay for it.
The judge observed that Dr Patel had in a "sizeable" brokerage account and "significant" money in a retirement account. "Dr Patel's request for continued court-appointed counsel is denied," the news.com.au quoted Judge Hubel as writing in his order.
The judge observed that he came to the decision without taking into account Dr Patel's Portland home, estimated to be worth more than 1 million dollars, or his wife Kishoree's separate assets or her salary as a doctor in the Portland area. "Dr Patel has substantial assets in various investment accounts. The significant amount of money in his Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is certain to be many times the sum required for retention of counsel for the extradition proceedings," Judge Hubel wrote in his order.
Australian authorities have charged Dr Patel with 16 offences, including three counts of manslaughter, related to alleged botched operations when Dr Patel was head of surgery at Queensland's Bundaberg Base Hospital between 2003 and 2005.
Dr Patel's failed request for a government-paid lawyer is a significant financial blow. Extradition proceedings in US courts can take more than two years, so his legal defence will likely cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Dr Patel's exact financial worth was not made public as Judge Hubel placed the information under seal. But the judge, in outlining why he rejected Dr Patel's bid, made it clear Dr Patel was not short of funds.