A Cook County judge on Friday approved an emergency motion filed on behalf of a teen accused of killing her mother in Bali and stuffing the body in a suitcase, tentatively allowing the release of up to $150,000 from the mother's estate to help pay for the teen's defense.
Judge Neil Cohen put stipulations on his ruling, however, mandating that Heather Mack have a dedicated Indonesian-based attorney to represent her during trial. Concerns have been expressed that the Bali lawyer that Mack has considered hiring has been known to represent drug smugglers.
"Funds can be used for hiring competent counsel," said Cohen. "We need someone who's for Heather and only Heather."
Mack's motion, filed Thursday, alleged that her uncle, William Wiese, has denied access to funds in the $1.56 million estate that could be used to provide for her "health, support, and maintenance." Wiese is the brother of Mack's slain mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, and the trustee of her estate.
Mack stated that if "convicted of the murder of my mother in Indonesia, it is probable I will receive the death penalty by firing squad." She also said that that if she and her unborn child die, her uncle stands to inherit the funds of the trust.
Cohen on Friday named an interim trustee to avoid a conflict of interest.
Mack and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Tommy Schaefer, both face the death penalty if convicted in von Wiese-Mack's August death. Separate trials for both defendants began earlier this week in Denpasar District Court in Bali, Indonesia.
The pair were arrested on Aug. 13, a day after the 62-year-old mother's body was found stuffed in a suitcase in a taxi at the St. Regis Bali Resort. In indictments, prosecutors said the couple plotted the murder because von Wiese-Mack did not endorse their relationship.
Mack is named as the sole beneficiary in von Wiese-Mack's will, last updated in May. The teen originally sought $300,000 from her mother's estate to help pay for legal bills but later reduced her request to about half that amount.
Wiese declined to provide any money to an account with the U.S. Consulate, the motion stated.
"To date, (the trustee) has not released one penny to assist Heather in any way, shape or form," attorney Tony Scifo wrote. "Said legal funds are a necessity to preserve Heather's life ... (The trustee's) actions do not comport with good faith or fair dealings and are wholly unconscionable."
Mack, who says she is innocent, says that her boyfriend confessed to the murder.