Expensive deal: Harper murder trial costs taxpayers over $370,000

YAKIMA, Wash. -- It was the plea deal that shocked Yakima; a year and a half after three people were found brutally beaten to death it their West Valley home, prosecutors decided they didn't have the evidence to convict their prime suspect Kevin Harper.

Those 19-months of negotiations, court appearances and research all cost you the tax-payers more than $370,000 dollars.

Yakima County isn't apologizing.

"You are innocent until proven guilty," said Yakima County Court Administrator Harold Delia. "And, so the system actually worked in my opinion. Were the costs extraordinary for the actual plea agreement? You bet. But that's how the system is."

From the beginning the case was bogged with delays. Yakima considered the death penalty which required a second attorney.

When the death penalty was off the table, the second attorney was off the case, but later re-hired to keep things moving.

KIMA discovered attorney fees alone ate up about half the cost of the case at $181,000.

Add that to costs racked up by the investigation, experts and a special prosecutor and you've got a $323,000-bill.

But that's not all. Harper's jail tab is over $55,000, which is from more than 600 days behind bars.

An expense that grows every day as Harper awaits his sentencing.

KIMA asked, "Was this a good use of taxpayer dollars?"

"Oh, well, I'd be hesitant to comment on that," said Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott.

Harper's case comes at a time when prosecutors work to control soaring law and justice costs.

"Is this an example of why you need to do that?" KIMA asked.

"No, not this one in particular," said Elliott. "There's been several cases in recent years that have cost far more than this."

A murder trial five years ago cost you about $2-million. That resulted in a guilty verdict for the men who killed a father and daughter.

In the end, Harper admitted to only a weapons and stolen property charge.

While Harper's case could have certainly dug deeper into the county's wallet there's no denying it was one expensive plea deal.

Our figures do not include prosecutors' expenses or those to deputies.

When factoring those numbers court officials say the actual cost of Harper's case is much greater.

We called prosecutors for their figures, but haven't heard back from them.