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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Death penalty in the news again today

From the LA Times:

The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut's decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.

"For this to be happening in succession, and coupled with the decline in death penalty convictions, it creates a momentum that other states will at least consider to be a part of," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the independent Death Penalty Information Center.,0,4967063.story

And a lot of what is motivating these actions is costs. The death penalty just costs more.

For example, here is yet another example from yet another study or yet another state:

COSTS: Death Penalty Cases in Nevada Cost $200K Extra, Just for Defense

A recent study of the death penalty in Nevada compared the costs of defending capital and non-capital murder cases. The study, conducted by Dr. Terance Miethe of the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, looked at the time spent by defense attorneys at various stages of a case. The study’s findings included:
- Clark County public defense attorneys spent an average of 2,298 hours on a capital murder case compared to an average of 1,087 hours on a non-capital murder case--a difference of 1,211 hours, or 112%.
- Defending the average capital murder case in Clark County cost $229,800 for a Public Defender or $287,250 for appointed counsel. The additional cost of capital murder cases was $170,000 to $212,000 per case compared to the cost of a non-capital murder case in the same county.
- The 80 pending capital murder cases in Clark County will cost approximately $15 million more than if they were prosecuted without seeking the death penalty.

It really says something about us that we are so heavily influenced by money, and that we make decisions about whether to pursue policies that ought to be influenced by concerns for justice rather than by money. But at least states are looking at the issue of capital punishment again.


  1. I agree with your assessment that it really is sad that the reason most states are taking another look at the death penalty is due to financial and not moral or legal considerations. I think this is mostly due to the fact that activists are seizing upon the economic downturn for empathy rather than their past, and also failed, arguments of injustice and scandal. Like we said in class on Monday, it is just too expensive to pursue the death penalty in the vast majority of cases, so it should be no wonder that a capitalist country wishes to nix something that has absolutely no return on investment. Prisons are cash cows, especially here in NC where prisoners make our license plates and other goods. It simply makes no sense financially to put to death potential slave labor.
    Before I upon up another Pandora's box, I'll just end by saying I am completely for ending the death penalty. It really says something when you go over to a country in Europe (remember, these people invented the guillotine and quartering) and they essentially call you backwards for living in a country who would put their prisoners to death. It's time for a new paradigm for our justice system, but let's first deal with ending the death penalty.

  2. I think that as I have mentioned before, personally I find the moral argument against the death penalty more significant for me personally; however, it is not realistically possible to change the moral opinion of the majority on the death penalty. What is possible however, is to prove to people that the costs of death penalty legislation outweigh the benefits, the media can realistically call out politicians for spending too much money on the death penalty, but it would be hard to question the status quo and the morals of many politicians. Regardless of how we are getting there, at least we are getting there.