Cost of 2 Seattle Death Penalty Cases Approaches $5 Million


The cost of prosecuting two men and a woman accused of two of the most heinous crimes in Seattle’s King County in recent years is $656,564 and counting, says the Seattle Times. The cost of defending them is even higher: $4.3 million, and also climbing. King County is struggling with the rising cost of criminal justice, which has forced Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to eliminate the jobs of 36 prosecutors since 2008. While budget constraints have forced some counties to all but abandon death-penalty cases, King County currently has two active capital cases.

Portland-based defense attorney Jeff Ellis, who handles death-penalty cases across the U.S., said the high costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases — which can also include years of appeals — has resulted in a drop in death-penalty cases. King County, with two cases, is an anomaly, he said. “There is a downturn in the number of death-penalty sentences being sought and imposed because of the costs associated with them,” Ellis said. “What’s happening now [in King County] is a reverse of what’s happening nationwide.” Satterberg defends the county’s filing of death-penalty cases despite the high cost. He blames much of the increased costs on what he calls an “industry” created by death-penalty attorneys.

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