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Fayette County judge approves $6,995 for court experts

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

A Fayette County judge approved payments totaling $6,995 to expert witnesses who testified during appeal hearings for a death-row convicted murderer.

Senior Judge Gerald Solomon on Tuesday ordered the county to pay $2,000 each to forensic pathologist Charles Wetli of Alpine, N.J., and clinical psychologist Kristina Jacquin of Santa Barbara, Calif. The county is to pay $1,960 to psychiatrist Dr. Susan Rich of Potomac, Md., and $995 to Eunice Askov, an adult literacy expert from State College, according to Solomon's order.

The four witnesses testified during appeal hearings for James VanDivner, who was convicted in 2007 of first-degree murder in the July 5, 2004 shooting death of his former girlfriend, Michelle Cable, outside her Jefferson Township home.

A jury gave VanDivner the death penalty.

Through attorneys Brent and Mariah Balling-Peck of Uniontown, VanDivner is claiming that he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is mentally retarded, among other reasons.

Solomon heard testimony on the appeal but has not yet issued a decision.

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