Missouri public defenders could get funding hike

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) Missouri public defenders could get a one-time $6.8 million funding hike next fiscal year.

House Budget Committee members added the funding during late-night changes to the proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.

The money is coming from funding for the attorney general's office that's set aside for consumer-protection efforts.

Missouri State Public Defender Director Michael Barrett told lawmakers the money could be used to hire private attorneys in cases with two defendants so that both are fairly represented.

He says the focus then would be on reducing caseloads for public defenders. He says the money would be a significant help in representing indigent defendants.