Mack can use trust fund for defense, judge says

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Friday, January 16, 2015
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A Cook County Circuit Court judge said Heather Mack can use money from her trust fund to pay for an Indonesian attorney.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Heather Mack, 19, accused of murdering her mother in Indonesia, has the right to use her trust fund money to obtain counsel of her own choice, according to Judge Neil H. Cohen of the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago.

Mack's lawyer filed an emergency motion Thursday asking for $150,000 from the trust fund, which is overseen by her uncle William Wiese.

"We are just happy that she is going to have some funds that are going to be made available for her so she can have a proper legal defense," Anthony Schifo, one of Mack's attorneys, said.

Mack's attorney told the court that she wants an Indonesian lawyer experienced in drug cases who was recommended by people in her jail.

Judge Cohen said Mack has a right to choose her own counsel as "a bedrock value of the U.S. justice system." He also expressed concern that Mack's proposed Indonesian attorney is looking at her trust fund as a "goose that laid the golden egg." Cohen expressed concern that the trust money may be used for bribes, but acknowledged there has been no finding of fact in that matter.

With the trial set to resume next week in Indonesia, Judge Cohen says time is short to come to an agreement on who should represent Mack overseas. The judge appointed a retired judge as interim trustee to handle the trusts' interest in determining who should take that role. As it stands, Mack's uncle would receive the trust's proceeds if she is found guilty and executed. Mack faces death by firing squad if convicted.

Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, are accused of murdering Mack's mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, last August in Bali. Mack and Schaefer were arrested in Bali after investigators found the badly beaten body of von Wiese-Mack stuffed inside a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside the St. Regis Bali Resort.

Mack and Schaefer are charged with premeditated murder, which carries a possible death penalty under Indonesian law. On Wednesday, when the trial began, Mack and Schaefer said they understood the charges. They are expected to enter pleas next week.

Prosecutors say the couple killed von Wiese-Mack because she did not approve of their relationship. They allege that Mack, who is now seven months pregnant, once suggested that Schaefer hire someone to kill her mother for $50,000.

The couple is being tried separately by the same prosecutors in front of the same judge at the Denpasar District Court.