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July 6, 2013

Accounting for the high costs of a lingering death row in Connecticut

This local article from the Nutmeg State, headlined "Taxpayers' Costs Top $3.5 Million For Death Row Inmates' Lawsuit," details that the statutory repeal of the death penalty in Connecticut has not repelled all the costs of capital litigation.  Here are the pricey basics:

The cost to taxpayers of a long-running racial-bias lawsuit by death-row inmates has topped $3.5 million, with more possible before an expected judge's ruling within a few months — and then a possible appeal by whoever loses.  News coverage of the habeas corpus lawsuit in state Superior Court has centered on the trial late last year of claims by five convicted killers that Connecticut's death penalty is biased racially, ethnically and geographically....

[The] totals [now of] slightly more than $3.5 million .... doesn't include the time devoted to the case by the salaried staff members of [Chief State's Attorney Kevin] Kane's office, who have opposed the inmates' claims of bias in the administration of the death penalty. Kane was asked for an estimate more than a week ago, but said it would be difficult to compile and didn't come up with one by Friday.

The tally also doesn't include possible additional payments to the expert witness for the inmates, Stanford Law School professor John J. Donohue III. Records show that Donohue was paid $100,000 from 2006 to 2008. But he's done a lot of work since then, including testifying at the trial last year, said the lead lawyer for the inmates, David Golub of Stamford.  For all the time Donohue has put in, he might be owed "millions," Golub said, although he didn't know how much of that the state would actually end up paying him.

The inmates pursuing the bias suit want their sentences converted to life imprisonment without parole.  The trial of the case ended in December and Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza is expected to render a decision within several months....

The trial was conducted for more than 10 days from September to December in a makeshift courtroom inside Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, which houses the state's 11 death-row inmates. The 11 men on death row still face execution despite the state legislature's abolition of the death penalty in 2012. The abolition doesn't apply to people already on death row whose crimes predated the legislation....

The inmates' claims grew out of a study of Connecticut death penalty prosecutions first authorized by the state Supreme Court in 1995 after it was presented with information indicating that the administration of the death penalty had been disproportionally applied to black defendants, or to defendants whose victims were white. The Supreme Court directed that the information be analyzed to explain any racial disparities. That led to a study by Donohue of all homicides prosecuted in Connecticut between 1973 and 2006. Donohue concluded, and testified in court, that there has been bias. Michelson, the state's expert, has disputed that.

July 6, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Permalink


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This is not a death penalty cost; this is a cost of having nitwit liberal and 'rat judges.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 6, 2013 4:23:37 PM

If you write a long article solely about the costs of X, the reader is likely to come away skeptical of X. This is news?

BTW, Donohue is an abolitionist zealot, there to voice his pre-formed conclusions, very thinly disguised as "evidence." And getting paid big money to do it! What a great racket!!

Finally, with only 10 plaintiffs, the cases should be examined one at a time to see if there was prejudicial bias in THAT PARTICULAR CASE. If yes, redo. If no, get on with it.

SC will have a field day with this one, as it actually IS a cozy lawyer scam.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 6, 2013 4:35:20 PM

Shorter Federalist: All of the costs of those who disagree with my personal interpretation of the law and Constitution should not count as costs.

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 6, 2013 4:35:42 PM

anonymous --

Your "shorter" reformulation of federalist is actually longer.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 6, 2013 4:38:45 PM

The sole valid appellate matter is innocence. Any other claim is lawyer rent seeking. Rent seeking shuld be criminalized as the variant of armed robbery that it really is.

I have also argued that anyone causing more damage by a crime than the value of a life, has murdered a constructive economic person. The death penalty is justified for such individuals. That means appellate judges, who are the responsible parties for generating cost of the death penalty for no benefit to the public, should be arrested, tried, and executed. The same should happen to any legislators who pass legislation enabling these false appeals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 6, 2013 10:18:59 PM

anon, the idea that 11 defendants convicted and sentenced to death with numerous independent decisionmakers over years is susceptible to statistical analysis that has any meaning is farcical. Only a liberal judge could swallow that.

And where are the matched pairs?

One question, anon, were you always this pig ignorant or did you have to work at it?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 6, 2013 10:28:05 PM

Bill, that was just too easy. These libs do like to lead with their chins.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 6, 2013 10:28:42 PM

If a false conviction is the sole valid appellate claim, know nothing judges are not qualified to investigate the quality of the evidence. Death penalty reviews should be conducted by former investigators.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 7, 2013 12:40:09 AM

The "nitwit liberal and 'rat judges" corrupting the process to that degree here is a bit curious since from 1995-2011 the state had two Republican governors, who are the ones (with assembly approval) fill the slots. Is that just a metaphor, like when 7-2 USSC rulings are denounced as [insert federalist colorful language]?

As to "zealots," I'm sure that those who support the death penalty side are not death penalty 'zealots,' since only one side will let zealotry and money (shouldn't matter too much -- the zealotry alone should be enough ... after all, don't they "love" murderers? to allude to p.o.v. by one contributor here) allow them to disrespect clear evidence to this degree.

Thankfully so, since we wouldn't want BOTH sides to have such disrespect of the ethics of their role, letting zealotry and money corrupt their sworn agreement to tell the whole truth. If it wasn't so clear and all, I might find it a bit wrong to not only disagree with the merits of the argument, but accusing the other side of a "scam."

As to the "one at a time," that sounds like the McCleskey v. Kemp approach. It would be useful to see if there were individual cases of discrimination, but system-wise corruption of the system, if shown, can very well in some cases be enough, at least under state law. That is however more of a merits question, which is a good debate. But, since "nitwit liberal and 'rat judges" [when appropriate, this applies to Reagan appointees that strike down major parts of the Voting Rights Act etc.] corrupt the system for years, even with two Republican governors filling seats, it just might be a lost cause.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 7, 2013 11:53:43 AM

Joe: Appeals on an infinite number of nitpicking legal technicalities begins to look like a pretext, not just to end the death penalty, but also to generate massive lawyer appellate jobs. It is this money making, rent seeking which makes these endless appeals in bad faith, and a scam. Because millions are being stolen by the lawyer enemy of the public safety, the death penalty is warranted, especially of the judges. The judges must be arrested, given an hour's fair trial, with solely their legal utterances as evidence, and summarily executed, as thieves, as traitors, as insurrectionists against the constitution.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 7, 2013 1:17:31 PM

Rent seeking is the aim of both parties, perhaps on behalf of different constituencies, but both are equal in their energy and zeal to plunder the public treasury.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 7, 2013 1:21:48 PM

Joe --

1. Your partisanship is showing.

2. I, on the other hand, am happy to concede that Republicans appoint poor judges. Indeed, they have an extensive history of doing so.

3. I'm happy to see you don't contest my statement that Donohue is a zealot. The particular relevance of this fact is that he's a lousy choice as an "expert witness." Such witnesses should be interested in facts not causes.

4. As to money corrupting the system: The proponents of the death penalty repeal measure in California outspent opponents by 20-1 and still lost. I agree with the implication that their money had a corrupting influence -- just not enough to overcome the decency of the electorate.

5. When taxpayer money is used to palm off a prejudiced academic lawyer as an "expert" on discrimination, after he has made a career of race huckstering, that's a scam and I will call it that with or without your approval.

6. If you want to explain why a defendant should benefit when the other side has failed to show an iota of discrimination against HIM, feel free. You haven't as yet, and haven't even tried. If you'd care to start, you might want to launch with the two (white) killer/child molesters of the three (white) Petit family murder victims. I would like you to designate a single item of racial prejudice that infected that case.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 7, 2013 1:50:25 PM

Joe, generally speaking the GOP tries to avoid appointing bad jurists--not so for Democrats.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 7, 2013 6:35:06 PM

| "the state had two Republican governors" . . .|


A-> All of you hopefully admit -- you included -- that a Republican in CT, NY, MA, etc., is likely still a liberal.
[This coming from a former Democrat.]
Consider Taxes, Abortion, Religious Rights, the Death Penalty, Gun Control,
Parental Rights, the Criminal's vs. the Victim's Rights, Tea Party/Patriot rights, or anything as you like. . .

A "conservative" in CT would likely not be so in the Midwest, West, or South.

| Accounting for the high costs of a lingering death row..|

B-> Of supreme relevance is that the "high COST[S] to taxpayers" are NOTfrom executing the
convicted murderers but from:
"a long-running racial-bias lawsuit by death-row inmates [which] has topped $3.5 million" plus an unestimated
figure as well for state court costs.

So why is the death penalty in CT expensive? ? ?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 8, 2013 10:31:54 AM

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