Oregon Debates How to Contain High Cost of Capital Cases


Convicted killer Robert Acremant, judged delusional, was moved off of Oregon’s death row, spared by a deal that got him a life sentence instead and that could save taxpayers millions in legal costs. The deal between prosecutors and his attorneys stopped the meter on his appeals. One avenue of appeal alone cost taxpayers $317,000, The Oregonian reports. The case highlights a debate under way in the state legislature about how to contain costs in death penalty defenses that run up to a combined $12 million a year.

Defense attorneys say changing how murderers are prosecuted could get the public the same result most often seen now — life sentences — at less cost. Prosecutors are pushing back, saying defendants would be far less likely to take plea deals if the death penalty weren’t hanging over them. The savings that reformers promise would be swallowed by new and expensive criminal trials, they say. No one is suggesting repeal of Oregon’s death penalty, instituted by voters in 1984, though a handful of other states have abolished capital punishment in recent years. Since 1984, Oregon has seen 795 aggravated murder cases in which the death penalty was possible; 60 convicts have been put on death row; two have been executed.

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