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February 5, 2009

The economic case against the death penalty getting more and more attention

Regular readers should not be surprised that one echo effect of hard economic times is that opponents of capital punishment are finding it easier to argue against the death penalty because of the extraordinary expense of properly administering the punishment of death. Here are just a few recent newspaper pieces reflecting these realities:

  • From Kansas here, "Death penalty opponents introduce bill to abolish executions based on cost"

  • From Montana here, "From a financial perspective, the death penalty fails"

  • From Virginia here, "Expanding the death penalty is fiscally irresponsible"

  • From the mountain states here, "One state looks to cut the death penalty, put money elsewhere"

February 5, 2009 at 05:00 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I don't think that the "money thing" is an argument pro Abolition. The Pro's will (logically) argue:"Cut the appeals and you cut the time on Death Row - and money is saved".

In the fight against capital punishment is the "money thing" a dead end.

Joachim

Posted by: Joachim | Feb 5, 2009 5:13:31 PM

I have understood that it usually takes 8-10 years of appellate and habeas corpus litigation, at a cost of about $3 million per case, before a state can execute a condemned inmate. There are about 3,000 people on Americas' death rows, so that adds up to about $9,000,000,000 ($9 billion). It costs about $65 billion per year to operate all of the jails and prisons in America. Or, think of all the other kinds of criminal cases that could more effectively be prosecuted with some of those savings. Because of budget problems in Kentucky, where I live, the Commonwalth's Attorneys office lawyers in Fayette County (Lexington)are having to take off furlough days without pay. Without death penalty litigation, those furloughs could probably be avoided. I imagine the situation is the same in other states.
In Atlanta, Georgia, the Court House killer (he shot a Judge and Court reporter to death in the Court room in 2005) offered to plead guilty and serve a life sentence without parole if the State would drop the death penalty. D.A. Paul Howard refused, but the jury declined to impose the death penalty, so Mr. Howard spent millions of dollars (both prosecution and defense costs of trial) unnecessarily. Now he is a sore loser, and is trying to get the Feds to bring a new indictment and seek the death penalty for armed car jacking resulting in death (of an off-duty I.C.E. Agent) for a killing the defendant has already been tried on in State Court; this would be "dual sovereignty", not "double jeopardy". Recently, a defendant in a death penalty case sat in a georgia jail for 8 months without even Court appointed counsel, because the State could not afford to hire and pay the attorneys.
Extraordinary cost during a time of budget deficits may become the weight that finally shifts the balance in favor of eliminating the death penalty as a criminal sentence. How much "justice" can we as a society afford?

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Feb 5, 2009 6:18:00 PM

Considering the state of the economy, the state deficits, and the fact that crime is likely to increase, I think there will be serious consideration to making policy changes.

Posted by: kathy@orange county wrongful death attorney | Jun 13, 2009 8:39:25 PM

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