Joseph Patterson Trial: How Much Does Expert Testimony Cost?

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The trial for the Sioux Falls man accused of murdering Adrian Peterson’s son was in its eighth day when the defense rested Thursday. During that time, more than a dozen medical professionals testified. Some typically are paid a small fee and others thousands of dollars. We’ve noticed that the prosecution is quick to point out how much the defense experts are getting paid.

Lincoln County prosecutors have called on nine medical professionals to testify in the Joseph Patterson murder trial. Most of them were with Sanford Health and treated 2-year-old Tyrese Ruffin who was injured while in Patterson’s care.

Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan said, “From the state’s perspective, often times we have fact experts which are the treating physicians that were on call or on duty at the time the patient or victim came into the hospital.”

In Minnehaha County, State’s Attorney Aaron McGowan says his budget to pay those experts is only around $2,500 a year.

“If they were under subpoena as a witness, they would just get a standard witness fee, like $20 a day or whatever that might be,” said McGowan.

But sometimes they need to hire an outside witness, which is hard to do because it’s far more expensive.

McGowan said, “If we retain them as an expert as a non-treating physician, it would really be up to that doctor or that facility to determine how much that fee would be.”

That’s what you see happening on the other side. Patterson’s defense has called five medical experts from as far away as England to take the stand. While they didn’t physically treat Ty, they’re being paid to research the evidence, make the trip, and to testify about their opinion. Some have testified that it’s around $10,000.

“A lot of them that I’ve cross examined over the years charge maybe $400 an hour so it’s very expensive and certainly the defendants pay a high fee to get those experts in,” said McGowan.

McGowan says they sometimes worry that money talks.

McGowan said, “It’s always a concern that those hired guns can come in and sway a jury.”

McGowan says compared to his $2,500, he believes the Minnehaha County Public Defender’s Office budget is around $100,000 so they can sometimes afford to pay these outside experts.

Mcgowan says Minnehaha County has a contract through Child’s Voice for forensic evaluations and testifying on the stand, as well as, with the county coroner who is with Sanford Health.

McGowan says he spent only $100 on witnesses in the trial for James McVay, who was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the stabbing death of Maybelle Schein as part of a plot to kill the President. He says the defense spent as much as $50,000.

The Patterson trial will resume again on Monday with rebuttal witnesses, with closing arguments possibly on Tuesday.