Death penalty moratorium & study bill introduced

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Assemblypersons Anderson, Leslie, Ohrenshall, Segerblom, Buckley, Atkinson, Claborn, Hogan, Horne, McClain, Munford and Pierce have introduced Assembly Bill 190, which if enacted would establish a moritorium on the execution of sentences of death until July 1, 2011 and would conduct a study on the fiscal costs of the death penalty in Nevada.  The study would require an examination and analysis of the costs of prosecuting and adjudicating capital cases compared to noncapital cases.

Nevada is not alone in considering the fiscal impact of the death penalty.  Both New Mexico and Montana are considering abolishing the death penalty in those states.

Other states have studied the fiscal impact of the death penalty and all have concluded that the death penalty is far more expensive than a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.  Details are available after the jump.


"The additional cost of confining an inmate to death row, as compared to the maximum security prisons where those sentenced to life without possibility of parole ordinarily serve their sentences, is $90,000 per year per inmate. With California's current death row population of 670, that accounts for $63.3 million annually."

Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.

The cost of the present system with reforms recommended by the Commission to ensure a fair process would be $232.7 million per year.

The cost of a system in which the number of death-eligible crimes was significantly narrowed would be $130 million per year.

The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year.

Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, June 30, 2008).


In its review of death penalty expenses, the State of Kansas concluded that capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases. The study counted death penalty case costs through to execution and found that the median death penalty case costs $1.26 million. Non-death penalty cases were counted through to the end of incarceration and were found to have a median cost of $740,000. For death penalty cases, the pre-trial and trial level expenses were the most expensive part, 49% of the total cost. The costs of appeals were 29% of the total expense, and the incarceration and execution costs accounted for the remaining 22%. In comparison to non-death penalty cases, the following findings were revealed: 

The investigation costs for death-sentence cases were about 3 times greater than for non-death cases.

The trial costs for death cases were about 16 times greater than for non-death cases ($508,000 for death case; $32,000 for non-death case).

The appeal costs for death cases were 21 times greater.

The costs of carrying out (i.e. incarceration and/or execution) a death sentence were about half the costs of carrying out a non-death sentence in a comparable case.

Trials involving a death sentence averaged 34 days, including jury selection; non-death trials averaged about 9 days.

 (Performance Audit Report: Costs Incurred for Death Penalty Cases: A K-GOAL Audit of the Department of Corrections) Read DPIC's Summary of the Kansas Cost Report.


A new study released by the Urban Institute on March 6, 2008 forecasted that the lifetime expenses of capitally-prosecuted cases since 1978 will cost Maryland taxpayers $186 million.  That translates into at least $37.2 million for each of the state's five executions since the state reenacted the death penalty. The study estimates that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million - $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case. The study examined 162 capital cases that were prosecuted between 1978 and 1999 and found that those cases will cost $186 million more than what those cases would have cost had the death penalty not existed as a punishment. At every phase of a case, according to the study, capital murder cases cost more than non-capital murder cases.

The 106 cases in which a death sentence was sought but not handed down in Maryalnd cost the state an additional $71 million. Those costs were incurred simply to seek the death penalty where the ultimate outcome was a life or long-term prison sentence.

("Death penalty costs Md. more than life term," by Jennifer McMenamin, The Baltimore Sun, March 6, 2008). Read the entire study here.

New Jersey

A New Jersey Policy Perspectives report concluded that the state's death penalty has cost taxpayers $253 million since 1983, a figure that is over and above the costs that would have been incurred had the state utilized a sentence of life without parole instead of death. The study examined the costs of death penalty cases to prosecutor offices, public defender offices, courts, and correctional facilities. The report's authors said that the cost estimate is "very conservative" because other significant costs uniquely associated with the death penalty were not available. "From a strictly financial perspective, it is hard to reach a conclusion other than this: New Jersey taxpayers over the last 23 years have paid more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one," the report concluded. Since 1982, there have been 197 capital trials in New Jersey and 60 death sentences, of which 50 were reversed. There have been no executions, and 10 men are housed on the state's death row. Michael Murphy, former Morris County prosecutor, remarked: "If you were to ask me how $11 million a year could best protect the people of New Jersey, I would tell you by giving the law enforcement community more resources. I'm not interested in hypotheticals or abstractions, I want the tools for law enforcement to do their job, and $11 million can buy a lot of tools." (See Newsday, Nov. 21, 2005; also Press Release, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Nov. 21, 2005). Read the Executive Summary. Read the full report. Read the NJADP Press Release.


 A new report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury recommended changes to the state's costly death penalty and called into question its effectiveness in preventing crime. The Office of Research noted that it lacked sufficient data to accurately account for the total cost of capital trials, stating that because cost and time records were not maintained, the Office of Research was unable to determine the total, comprehensive cost of the death penalty in Tennessee." Although noting that, "no reliable data exists concerning the cost of prosecution or defense of first-degree murder cases in Tennessee," the report concluded that capital murder trials are longer and more expensive at every step compared to other murder trials. In fact, the available data indicated that in capital trials, taxpayers pay half again as much as murder cases in which prosecutors seek prison terms rather than the death penalty. Findings in the report include the following:

Death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment.
Tennessee District Attorneys General are not consistent in their pursuit of the death penalty.

Surveys and interviews of district attorneys indicate that some prosecutors "use the death penalty as a 'bargaining chip' to secure plea bargains for lesser sentences."

Previous research provides no clear indication whether the death penalty acts as a method of crime prevention.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed 29 percent of capital cases on direct appeal.

Although any traumatic trial may cause stress and pain for jurors, the victims' family, and the defendant's family, the pressure may be at its peak during death penalty trials. (July 2004)

Read the The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research's Report, "Tennessee's Death Penalty: Costs and Consequences."



At the trial level, death penalty cases are estimated to generate roughly $470,000 in additional costs to the prosecution and defense over the cost of trying the same case as an aggravated murder without the death penalty and costs of $47,000 to $70,000 for court personnel. On direct appeal, the cost of appellate defense averages $100,000 more in death penalty cases, than in non-death penalty murder cases. Personal restraint petitions filed in death penalty cases on average cost an additional $137,000 in public defense costs.


Death Penalty Trials Very Costly Relative to County Budgets

Capital cases burden county budgets with large unexpected costs, according to a report released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, "The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Convictions," by Katherine Baicker. Counties manage these high costs by decreasing funding for highways and police and by increasing taxes. The report estimates that between 1982-1997 the extra cost of capital trials was $1.6 billion. (NBER Working Paper No. w8382, Issued in July 2001) Read the abstract.

Federal Costs

The average cost of a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought.  A study found that those defendants whose representation was the least expensive, and thus who received the least amount of attorney and expert time, had an increased probability of receiving a death sentence. Defendants with less than $320,000 in terms of representation costs (the bottom 1/3 of federal capital trials) had a 44% chance of receiving a death sentence at trial. On the other hand, those defendants whose representation costs were higher than $320,000 (the remaining 2/3 of federal capital trials) had only a 19% chance of being sentenced to death. Thus, the study concluded that defendants with low representation costs were more than twice as likely to receive a death sentence. The complete report can be found here.

(Office of Defender Services of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, "Update on Cost, Quality, and Availability of Defense Representation in Federal Death Penalty Cases," June 2008; prepared by Jon Gould and Lisa Greenman).

[summaries, information and links provided by the Death Penalty Information Center].




0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Death penalty moratorium & study bill introduced.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by JoNell published on February 20, 2009 8:46 AM.

Nevada Supreme Court to Webcast Oral Arguments was the previous entry in this blog.

No opinions this week is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.0