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June 10, 2011

Nevada Gov Sandoval vetoes bill to study cost of the death penalty

I am disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to read this local story about a decision by Nevada's Governor to veto a bill that would have authroized a study of the state's death penalty costs.  Here are the details: 

Gov. Brian Sandoval has vetoed a bill that called for a study of the cost of the death penalty in Nevada.  Assembly Bill 501 was sponsored by the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Election and called for the legislative auditor to examine the costs of capital cases compared to non-death penalty cases.

“This bill lacks the specificity necessary to persuade me that the outcome of the audit performed will be fair,” he said in his veto message.  There hasn’t been an execution in Nevada since April 2006.  Some murderers have been sitting on death row for more than 20 years due to appeals.

The bill was approved by the Assembly 28-14 and by the Senate 11-10.  The vote was along party lines with Republicans opposing the study.  The study would have included pre-trial, trial and appeal costs, plus how much it costs to keep an inmate on death row at the state prison in Ely.

The governor said, “The bill, for example, lists the costs to be assessed in determining the overall fiscal impact of the imposition of the death penalty, but it does not specify how it is these costs will be assessed.”

Sandoval also said the audit doesn't reflect the choices by individuals on death row in pursuing appeals.  “Thus, because the bill fails to assure me that the outcome of the audit will be reliable and fair, I veto it,” the governor said.

I can understand Governor Sandoval's concern that any study of death penalty costs will be imperfect and maybe even "unfair" (whatever that means in this context).  But the fact that the study could be flawed seems to me to be a poor reason not block such a study effort entirely.  I would bet that Sandoval's concerns could be address through a revised bill, though I suspect Sandoval and others who may be disinclined to have attention given to what Nevada's death penalty really costs economically will not start work on a revised death penalty study bill.

June 10, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Permalink


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But of course the Governor cannot revise the bill. He can only veto it, sign it, or let it become law by doing nothing.

No study is better than a biased study. We have seen far too many of those. I'll hoist a glass to Governor Sandoval.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 10, 2011 1:15:10 PM

Governor Sandoval's administration was present at the legislature every day of the 2011 session and they chimed in with suggestions and amendments on many, many bills. If Sandoval wanted to suggest amendments to the the bill, he could have done so easily either by working with the sponsors or by having his Republican friends in the Legislature propose changes.

We spent six months listening to this Governor demand fiscal responsibility, and refuse badly needed tax increases to pay for education and social services. It was incredibly hypocritical of him to refuse a study the cost effectiveness of Nevada's death penalty scheme. Instead, we'll spend millions on a penalty that offers little benefit to the citizens of this state, while UNLV cuts 18 degree programs and 9 departments due to budget cuts, K-12 schools will suffer huge decreases to their budgets, and social service cuts will hurt families in dire financial situations.

Posted by: JoNell Thomas | Jun 10, 2011 2:54:52 PM

"No study is better than a biased study."

Without seeing the study, can't tell if it is "biased," and if it's bad, it is merely advisory. This is of the "perfect is the enemy of the good," at least when it is something I want to avoid.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 10, 2011 9:01:45 PM

Kudos to Sandoval for using his veto pen--why subsidize Dieter types to create propaganda?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 10, 2011 10:31:13 PM

Do we need an expensive study to confirm the self-evident, that the death penalty is expensive because of the trial and appellate lawyer fees? We need a study of lawyer rent seeking, bad faith, and the collusion of pro-criminal judges. We need a study of the total failure of the criminal law to protect the public, and its economic and human consequences. Then we need a study of the effect of excluding lawyers from all criminal law policy, in the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. No lawyer should be allowed to make any substantive decision about crime. This supernatural doctrine touting clown is looking out only for himself, and not for the public.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 10, 2011 11:42:39 PM

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