Costs A Big Issue In Capital Punishment Debate


The death penalty may be abandoned by several states for fiscal reasons, says the Associated Press. It is cheaper to imprison killers for life than to execute them, says a series of recent surveys. Tens of millions of dollars cheaper, during a recession when nearly every state faces job cuts and massive deficits. “It’s 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive,” though most Americans believe the opposite, said Donald McCartin, a former California judge known as “The Hanging Judge of Orange County” for sending nine men to death row. “Every one of my cases is bogged up in the appellate system,” said McCartin, who retired in 1993 after 15 years on the bench. “It’s a waste of time and money,” said the 82-year-old, self-described right-wing Republican. “The only thing it does is prolong the agony of the victims’ families.”

In 2007, time and money were the reasons New Jersey became the first state to ban executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the mid-1970s. Out of 36 remaining states with the death penalty, at least eight have considered legislation this year to end it — Maryland, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, New Hampshire, Washington, and Kansas. Death penaltycases are more expensive for several reasons: They often require extra lawyers; experience requirements lead to long appellate waits while capable counsel is sought; security costs are higher, as well as costs for processing evidence.

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