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October 8, 2012

Examining the high costs of administering capital punishment in Florida

As highlighted in this new Reuters article, headlined "California Death Penalty Foes Focus on Cost of Executions," the economics of administering capital punishment is at the heart of efforts to repeal the death penalty in the Golden State.  But, as highlighted in this lengthy local article, folks in the Sunshine State perhaps ought also be concerning about capital costs.  The article is headlined "Cost of Florida's death row easily exceeds $1 million per inmate, investigation shows," and here is how the article begins:

As convicted killer Steven Hayward of Fort Pierce enters his fifth year on Florida's death row — one of 16 Treasure Coast men sentenced to die for their crimes — a decades-old debate rages over whether it takes too long and costs too much to legally challenge his capital punishment before he's executed.

With state records showing it takes on average about 14 years for death row inmates to complete their appeals, Hayward could spend another decade behind bars before he faces a lethal injection.  Some legal experts say Hayward's appellate attorneys with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, a state agency known as CCRC tasked with defending death penalty inmates, purposely drag out appeals like his just to keep him alive while costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

During a three-month investigation, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers reviewed the appeals and case files of death row prisoners convicted of first-degree murder in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties to see why it takes dozens of years for some inmates to complete their appeals and be executed — and at what cost to taxpayers.

Research shows the time it takes to present a capital case on appeal in both state and federal court is a major factor in determining how long it takes for an inmate to progress through the judicial system.  How much that litigation costs can vary widely from case to case, depending on the legal matters involved.

The tab for taxpayers can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars and housing death row inmates costs millions more.  Trying to determine how much a post-conviction appeal case costs taxpayers — especially ones spanning decades — is nearly impossible to determine, Scripps found, because no state entity has ever been mandated to keep a running total of related legal expenses in a particular case.

In fact, Scripps could not determine how much the CCRC has spent appealing Hayward's death sentence because those costs are protected under attorney-client privilege, according to the Justice Administrative Commission, the state agency that pays the regional counsel's bills.

October 8, 2012 at 09:15 AM | Permalink


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"In fact, Scripps could not determine how much the CCRC has spent appealing Hayward's death sentence because those costs are protected under attorney-client privilege..."

That cannot be correct. Even individual fee arrangements between the client and privately retained counsel are not protected by the privilege. A fortiori, merely the undifferentiated overall amount of the cost of representation of a client (whose bills are being picked up by the taxpayers) cannot be the subject of the privilege.

If CCRC doesn't want to disclose how much it's spending, there must be some other reason. I wonder what that could be.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 8, 2012 9:38:28 AM

The real problem in Florida is that they have dozens of condemned inmates who've exhausted all of their appeals and, yet, the governor is only signing three or four death warrants a year. The governor needs to sign warrants for all of them.

The following Florida Death Row inmates have been denied through at least the 11th Circuit as of October 8, 2012:

Name - Case Status
Lloyd Chase Allen - cert denied 5/2/11
Pressley Alston - cert denied 12/13/10
Gary Alvord - cert denied 5/18/98
Robin Archer - cert denied 10/5/09
Mark Asay - cert denied 11/2/09
Jeffrey Atwater - cert denied 10/5/09
Curtis Beasley - cert denied 3/28/11
James Belcher - cert denied 10/31/11
Michael Bell - 11th Circuit denied COA 2/7/12
Omar Blanco - 11th Circuit denied COA 7/31/12
Gary Ray Bowles - cert denied 11/29/10
Eric Branch - cert denied 3/5/12
Paul Brown - cert denied 1/24/11
James Card - cert denied 2/21/12
Elmer Carroll - cert denied 11/2/09
Alphonso Cave - cert denied 10/17/11
Juan Chavez - cert denied 1/9/12
Loran Cole - cert denied 1/7/08
Robert Consalvo - cert denied 10/1/12
Allen Ward Cox - cert denied 10/3/11
Frederick Cummings - cert denied 10/4/10
Adam Davis - cert denied 11/28/11
Eddie Davis - cert denied 2/22/10
Jesus Delgado - cert denied 10/1/12
Donald Dillbeck - cert denied 10/3/11
Noel Doorbal - cert denied 11/16/09
James Duckett - cert denied 10/3/11
John Ferguson - execution scheduled for 10/16/12
Charles Finney - cert denied 6/11/07
Charles Foster - cert denied 2/26/07
Konstantinos Fotopoulos - cert denied 10/6/08
Leonardo Franqui - cert denied 5/12/08
John Freeman - cert denied 1/12/09
Guy Gamble - cert denied 10/30/06
Ricardo Gonzalez - cert denied 10/31/11
Olen Gorby - cert denied 3/9/09
Marshall Gore - cert denied 11/28/11
Michael A. Griffin - cert denied 5/21/12
Thomas Gudinas - cert denied 3/5/12
Jerry Haliburton - cert denied 6/7/04
Richard Hamilton - cert denied 10/3/11
Patrick Hannon - cert denied 11/2/09
Harold Harvey - cert denied 11/14/11
Robert Hendrix - cert denied 11/3/08
Robert Henry - cert denied 4/5/10
Guerry Hertz - cert denied 4/4/11
Paul Howell - cert denied 11/9/06
James Hunter - cert denied 10/3/05
Etheria Jackson - cert denied 10/2/06
Bryan Jennings - cert denied 3/31/08
Jose Jimenez - cert denied 6/22/09
Ronnie Johnson - cert denied 10/6/08
David Wyatt Jones - cert denied 11/1/10
Randall Jones - cert denied 11/14/11
William Kelley - cert denied 10/13/09
Darius Kimbrough - cert denied 11/9/09
Thomas Knight - cert denied 1/25/10
Gregory Kokal - cert denied 5/31/11
Johnny Kormondy - 11th Circuit denied COA 7/31/12
Anthony Lamarca - cert denied 11/30/09
Cary Lambrix - cert denied 4/23/07
Gary Lawrence - cert denied 2/20/07
Ian Lightbourne - cert denied 5/19/08
Harold Gene Lucas - 11th Circuit denied COA 6/8/12
Larry Mann - cert denied 10/1/12
Scott Mansfield - 11th Circuit denied COA 5/9/12
John Marquard - cert denied 6/5/06
Matthew Marshall - cert denied 3/28/11
Meryl McDonald - cert denied 2/27/12
Douglas Meeks - cert denied 2/20/01
Robert Morris - 11th Circuit denied COA 4/20/12
Alvin Morton - 11th Circuit denied COA 6/20/12
Sonny Roy Oats - cert denied 6/14/99
Dominick Occhicone - cert denied 1/8/07
Duane Owen - 11th Circuit denied COA 7/11/12
Bruce Pace - cert denied 10/5/09
Manuel Pardo - cert denied 5/24/10
Robert Patton - cert denied 6/16/08
Daniel Peterka - cert denied 10/3/11
Lenard Philmore - cert denied 3/22/10
Norberto Pietri - cert denied 2/21/12
Anthony Ponticelli - 11th Circuit denied COA 8/16/12
Richard Randolph aka Richard Abdul-Saijad Muh - cert denied 11/1/10
Grover Reed - cert denied 10/4/10
John Loveman Reese - cert denied 10/1/12
Richard Rhodes - cert denied 10/1/12
Michael Robinson - cert denied 10/4/10
Glen Rogers - cert denied 1/10/11
Milo Rose - cert denied 10/3/11
Pablo San Martin - cert denied 10/3/11
Paul Scott - cert denied 3/16/95
Richard Shere - cert denied 10/3/11
Sean Hector Smith aka Dolan Darling - cert denied 2/22/11
Dennis Sochor - 11th Circuit denied COA 6/27/12
Dusty Ray Spencer - cert denied 1/24/11
Ernest Suggs - cert denied 3/28/11
William Sweet - cert denied 4/30/07
William Lee Thompson - cert denied 3/9/09
George Trepal - 11th Circuit denied COA 6/19/12
Melvin Trotter - cert denied 12/15/08
William T. Turner - cert denied 2/28/11
William Van Poyck - cert denied 1/7/08
Peter Ventura - cert denied 6/22/09
John Vining - cert denied 5/2/11
Frank Walls - cert denied 4/30/12
Jason Dirk Walton - cert denied 10/1/12
Curtis Windom - cert denied 5/5/10
Edward Zakrzewski - cert denied 6/7/10
William Zeigler - cert denied 10/04/04


Posted by: alpino | Oct 8, 2012 1:50:34 PM

Bill - In the case of the CRCC, the attorney-client privilege in question might be that of the CRCC attorney and his own criminal attorney.

Posted by: Gray R. Proctor | Oct 8, 2012 2:03:18 PM

I have to give alpino this one.

"The real problem in Florida is that they have dozens of condemned inmates who've exhausted all of their appeals and, yet, the governor is only signing three or four death warrants a year. The governor needs to sign warrants for all of them."

For a DP inamate who has finished all legal appeals over a decade ago to still be breathing could be considered criminal inaction by the state.

Sounds to me like a good lawyer could make a hell of a case with the feds to demand the state execute the legal court ordered sentence.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 8, 2012 2:07:30 PM

Mr.Proctor --

"In the case of the CRCC, the attorney-client privilege in question might be that of the CRCC attorney and his own criminal attorney."

First, the story nowhere suggests that such is the case, and second, even if it is, fee arrangements are still not covered by the attorney-client privilege.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 8, 2012 2:46:24 PM

The problem is with the Executive Branch. There is no procedure for clemency hearings and death warrant designation. The last couple Governors' have let it get totally out of control by inaction.

Also, the vast majority of the inmates file repeated appeals in state court after they have been denied cert to the 11th Circuit. That keeps the Governor from selecting them for a warrant.

As I have posted before, the statute should be changed authorizing the circuit court to set the execution dates upon request from the Attorney General. A clemency hearing would be conducted for each case. I have discussed this personally with several legislators, ex-Governor Bush and former AG McCollum. My suggestion received little interest.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 8, 2012 4:09:21 PM

Sorry davep but there is a resaon there is no procedure for clemency. That is a gift of mercy from the governor. Send in a letter and ask. At least one of those on the above list has been done with all appeals for over a decade. I know the post office has gotten slow but i'm pretty sure they could have gotten one there by now.

Sorry in my book once all legal appeals are done. Execution of sentence should be automatic UNLESS stayed by a higher court or action from the governor.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 8, 2012 7:39:52 PM


every capital defendant has the right to ask for clemency from whoever is designated to hear the plea.
Florida has muddied up this recently, that's why so much time at the state circuit court and FSC has been spent on this.

Also,FYI,the Governor in Florida cannot commute a death sentence unless a majority of the cabinet so recommends. I don't think any have been commuted since former Governor Bob Graham's term many years ago.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 8, 2012 8:12:58 PM

I know every capital defendant has the right to ask for clemency. In florida that is pretty much the only way 100's of thousands of ex cons can even get any real civil rights back. As for the Governor not being able to grant a pardone i'm not sure that's true. Procedure may say it's diff. But the law may say diff. I'm not sure about that one. But considering who the current Governor is and the fact his AG is a empty headed blond bimbo ...both of whom had no problem tossing 15 years of lawsuits and court decisions on thier heads over ex cons's civil rights....i'm not sure it matters.

I still say over TEN YEARS after finality of conviction with execution of sentnece not being done is criminal.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 8, 2012 11:19:56 PM

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