‘These Things Take Time’: Average Death Row Wait Now 13 Years


Those condemned to die in the United States wait on death row for an average of 13 years, 11 years longer than when the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, reports the Florida Times-Union in a story that attempts to explain the often-criticized lag between conviction and execution. In brief, the explanation is simple: due process. “These things take time,” explains a retired Georgia Supreme Court justice. “Everyone wants it quick, but no one wants to fund the due process to make sure all the Ts are crossed and the I's are dotted.”

There are more than 3,000 inmates now on Death Row. About 40 are executed each year. Appeals are cited as a cause of delays, and many appeals stem from complaints that the public defenders were poorly funded, without access to the investigators, psychiatrists and other experts who could help mount a credible defense. Capital punishment cases have become more and more expensive, and economics prompted New Mexico to strip it from the law books in March. In 1993, North Carolina estimated that each execution costs $2 million for than a life sentence. Fifteen states now have no death penalty.

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