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December 6, 2009

Interesting report on review of capital costs in New Hampshire

This article from the Nashua Telegraph, which is headlined "Death penalty costs N.H. millions: Commission examines capital punishment," discussing an on-going capital study in the Granite State. Here are snippets:

The taxpayer cost to prosecute, defend and sentence William "Stix" Addison for the October 2007 murder of a Manchester police officer has reached nearly $3 million and will grow by half a million dollars a year while he appeals the verdict.  Meanwhile, state prosecutors spent $2.4 million to convict John Brooks of Londonderry for ordering the 2005 murder of a Derry handyman.  The jury turned down the state's bid to apply the death penalty and instead Brooks is now serving serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Commission to Study the Death Penalty in New Hampshire spent Friday examining the costs to carry out capital punishment.  The state hasn't executed anyone since 1939 and it's rare event that two capital murder cases went all the way to the jury in the past two years.

Retired, Superior Court Chief Justice Walter Murphy said gauging the cost to execute someone versus life in prison without parole is a key charge the Legislature gave this commission.  "We appreciate the cost is not driving anything here but I think there is a public perception that somehow the prosecution of someone for a non-capital offense is cheaper," said Murphy who chairs the commission.

The commission learned Friday it will be difficult to come up with all those costs.  Deputy Attorney General Orville "Bud" Fitch said it has cost $1.6 million already for the prosecution in the Addison case.  This does not include costs spent by local and state police to investigate and testify in the matter.  Addison is indigent so the state paid for his defense.

N.H. Public Defender Executive Director Christopher Keating told commissioners that by next June 30 the state will have spent $1.3 million to defend Addison and appeal his verdict to the state Supreme Court. Keating estimates the defense will spend about $400,000 each year on Addison's appeal.  Fitch said the AG's office couldn't give an estimate on what their appeal expenses will be....

The state's death penalty law is narrowly drawn to cover premeditated murders against judges, court officers, members of law enforcement or if it's part of a murder-for-hire scheme or linked to a felony rape, kidnapping or major drug deal.  Murphy said the commission might not be able to answer the cost comparison issue completely.  "It may be that we will come to the conclusion that we can't tell," Murphy said.

December 6, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink


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I would be interested to know how these sorts of numbers are arrived at. I've seen other government accounting that used highly questionable choices, such as attributing the entire cost of a computer system to the production of a three page document even though the computer was not new and remained in use after the document was produced.

I just have to wonder if costs that would be incurred regardless of any particular prosecution are being added in.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 6, 2009 10:59:53 PM

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