The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled Shelby County does not have to pay the legal fees of a deputy involved in a fatal shooting. Shelby County Deputy Sheriff Chad Butler shot and killed Dwayne Jens after a high-speed chase in December of 2004.
Jens was unarmed and a grand jury charged Butler with voluntary manslaughter, but the deputy was found not guilty of the charge after a three-day trial. Butler asked the county to pay some $60,000 in legal fees for his defense.
The Shelby County supervisors declined to pay. It was argued that not paying the fees would hurt the morale of law officers, while the other side said paying the fees might make law officers engage in undesirably risky behavior.
The Supreme Court ruling did not address either argument, it simply says the Iowa legislature has not chosen to enact legislation requiring local governments to provide a defense for county officers in criminal matters while they are on duty and the officer is acquitted on the charges.