« "The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers" | Main | "Georgia chief justice calls for sentencing reforms" »

January 26, 2012

Cost concerns stressed in pitch to abolish Oregon's death penalty

As reported in this piece in Seattle Weekly, which is headlined "Death Penalty Foes, Backing New Bill, Say Capital Cases Waste Money," a new effort to abolish the death penalty in Oregon is giving extra emphasis to fiscal issues.  Here is how the piece begins (and links to notable reports about capital costs in Oregon):

As [here] reported yesterday, a new effort to abolish the death penalty is underway in the legislature. The debate over the ultimate punishment has been going on for decades, but it's not just about morality any more. Like so many things, it's also about the economy.

Driving to an Olympia press conference yesterday on the bill sponsored by Senator Debbie Regala, criminal defense attorney Mark Larranga spoke to SW about the state budget: "If you're looking for places to trim the fat, the death penalty is the perfect example."

His argument, derived in part from two studies he has has worked on (one for a group that advises lawyers working on capital cases, and another for the Washington State Bar Association) is strictly monetary.  Since the death penalty was reenacted in this state in 1981, it has cost the state "millions and millions of dollars," Larranga says.

Precisely how much is hard to track down, partly because allocations come from different levels of government.  But Larranga points to the recent trial of convicted Kirkland quadruple murderer Conner Schierman.  Taking into account prosecution and public defense costs, he says the trial cost $2.5 million -- and that's not including the cost of appeals.

And yet, for all the money spent, Larranga says the "process has failed" on its own terms. In 30 years, just five people have been executed. Many more have been sentenced to death -- 32 to be precise -- but 17 of those sentences have been reversed on appeal and others have appeals pending.

Some recent and older related posts on the costs of capital punsihment:

January 26, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201630028d203970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Cost concerns stressed in pitch to abolish Oregon's death penalty:

Comments

I would remind you of something related to your previous post on the like debate in CT: "Death Penalty: Should Cost Be A Factor?":

Even in the midst of the widespread attribution of a greater $ expense $ for the death penalty, with cost as "a factor", the public still support it, so marvel not that the argument of many is "strictly monetary".

As I blogged before re: "Deleware Governor" and to which anti-DP Grits responded with "maybe so":

[I]n Connecticut, with comprehensive news coverage of the Cheshire killings, by 76% to 18%, “voters favor the death penalty for the 2007 home invasion and murders.”
“Overall, the poll released Wednesday shows 65 to 23 percent support for the death penalty in general.“

The more people know about the particulars of a capital crime, the more they support the death penalty, whatever the expense. ==read more: http://www.ctpost.com

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 26, 2012 1:18:48 PM

Like the majority of the members of the general public, the majority of respondents in death penalty polls have very little sense of the costs involved in administering the death penalty.

If the only respondents surveyed were those who actually understood that enforcement of a death sentence is exponentially more costly than an LWOP sentence, the result would be a precipitous drop in support for the death penalty.

Prosecutors in capital cases resist efforts to disabuse prospective jurors of the false notion held by many that death is cheaper than life. They do so for a reason.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 26, 2012 2:50:49 PM

There again with that nonsense propaganda. CCDCs statement is false on its face, and further if there are costs affiliated with the DP they are driven upward frivolously due to irresponsible litigation by lawyers such as CCDC, and that is done with the specific intent to try to set up this specious argument.

The public should be disabused of the false notion that "CCDC" has anything resembling the interest of the PUBLIC at heart. Thanks for the laugh though.

I would bet that CCDC lawyers routinely argue that justice is priceless, or words to that effect. They just don't like being in such a small minority in their view about what constitutes justice in such cases. So this comes from the other side of the mouth.

When they can explain the cost of a murder committed by one who should and could have been executed but was not, so as to actually have something to compare your alleged "costs" to, they should feel free to try again.

Posted by: Rich Mantei | Jan 26, 2012 3:31:37 PM

CCDC --

Q: And if the death penalty cost LESS than LWOP, and the prosecution wanted to argue that to the jury, would you object?

A: You'd be out of your chair in a nanosecond, and the volume of your objection would make it audible on Mars.

Your objection would be sustained, because the judge would know that the cost of Punishment X is a factor for the legislature to consider, and by no means should it affect the equities before the jury in any individual case. Either imposing or withholding the DP on account of cost would be a scandal.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 26, 2012 6:50:56 PM

Oregon has a death penalty?

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jan 27, 2012 9:20:56 AM

CCDC has a bit of monomania on this one. He got clowned on previous threads with his disingenuous legal arguments. (I notice he doesn't rehash those.) Now he tries to impugn prosecutors for keeping stuff from a jury.

By the by, if cost were such an issue, then why didn't all these cost-people yap when Kitzhaber put off Haugen's execution? Clearly, by executing him, money would be saved.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 27, 2012 11:25:59 AM

Taxpayers and voters ought to know that LWOP sentences are substantially less costly than death sentences.

Jurors ought not be allowed to opt for a death sentence over an LWOP sentence based on the mistaken notion that death is cheaper than life.

As Thomas Jefferson observed, ignorance undermines democracy.

As Bubba observed, "It's the economy, stupid."

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 27, 2012 5:15:12 PM

CCDC --

Since you didn't answer, I'll ask again. If the death penalty cost less than LWOP, and the prosecution wanted to argue that to the jury, would you object?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2012 9:05:18 PM

Hypothetical questions need to have some arguable basis in fact. Your hypothetical question does not.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 29, 2012 10:44:06 AM

CCDC --

"Hypothetical questions need to have some arguable basis in fact. Your hypothetical question does not."

Did you ever go to law school? The definition of a "hypothetical" is precisely a set of circumstances that are NOT factual, but whose exploration can throw light on the debate. This is sometimes also called a thought experiment.

Suppose a law were passed limiting the amount spent on litigation in a capital case to half a million dollars, and limiting the time spent in litigation to seven years post-conviction. This would almost certainly make the overall cost of hosting the prisoner for life greater than the cost of carrying out the death penalty.

So I'll ask you again: If the death penalty cost less than LWOP, and the prosecution wanted to argue that to the jury, would you object?

Hint: You know full well you'd object, arguing (successfully) to the judge that justice does not hang on the pricetag. The ONLY reason you're dodging here is that to admit this truth would destroy the point you're trying to push.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 29, 2012 1:36:46 PM

Do you concede that enforcement of death sentences is vastly more expensive than enforcement of LWOP sentences?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 29, 2012 5:32:14 PM

Would you still support the death penalty if each execution cost $ 3 trillion to enforce?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 29, 2012 5:37:24 PM

CCDC --

"Do you concede that enforcement of death sentences is vastly more expensive than enforcement of LWOP sentences?"

No.

Now that I've given a direct answer to a question of yours, I would like a direct answer to the question you've been dodging: If the death penalty cost less than LWOP, and the prosecution wanted to argue that to the jury at the sentencing phase, would you object?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 2, 2012 3:10:40 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB