Report issued on defense representation in federal death penalty cases

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Via the Death Penalty Information Center, a 55 page report, Update on the Cost, Quality, and Availability of Defense Representation in Federal Death Penalty Cases, has been issued by the US Courts' Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services.  The numbers are interesting:generator key black and white

From 1989 through 2007, 435 federal death penalty prosecutions have been authorized.generator key black and white

There have been 176 federal death penalty trials, involving 233 defendants.  61 defendants were sentenced to death (26% of those tried received death verdicts).generator key black and white

The study examines the cost of federal capital cases by examining cases with defendants who were eligible for the death penalty and comparing those authorized for the death penalty by the Attorney General against those which were not authorized. The cases examined took place between 1998 and 2004. The median cost for a non-authorized case was $76,665.  Cases in which prosecutors were authorized to seek the death penalty were substantially more expensive with a median cost of $353,185.  The median cost for authorized cases that went to trial was $465,602.generator key black and white

The death penalty cases also showed a far greater number of attorneys per case, with a median of 436 hours in non-authorized cases and 2,014 in death authorized cases.  Authorized death cases that went to trial had a median of 2,746 attorney hours while plea cases averaged 1,028 hours. generator key black and white

Death authorized cases also carry a much higher cost for expert witnesses.  While non-authorized cases had a median cost of $5,275 for experts, death authorized cases had a median cost of $83,090 for all cases and $101,592 for those cases that went to trial.generator key black and white

The cost of the defense case had a huge impact upon the verdict received in the case.  Defendants who received the least amount of attorney and expert time, and whose defense representation thus cost the least, facted a higher probability of receiving a sentence of death.  1/3 of the defendants had trials that had a defense cost of $320,000 or less.  Those defendants received a death sentence in 44% of the cases.  In the remaining 2/3 of cases, which cost in excess of $320,000, the defendant received a death sentence only 19% of the cases.generator key black and white

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