According a 2008 study by the Death Penalty Information Center, California spends $137 million per year on capital punishment cases, whereas life without parole would cost only $11.5 million. On average nationwide, it costs two to three times more for a death penalty case. The writing is on the wall, writes FOX News: The death penalty is too expensive for the cash-strapped United States.
Dropping out of the death penalty industry
A shaky U.S. economy has forced lawmakers to make some tough decisions regarding the use of capital punishment.
“It is a big deal for county budgets,” said Dan Satterberg, King County (Wash.) Prosecuting Attorney. “When a death penalty case comes up, cost is a factor that everyone is considering.”
Considering the high cost of criminal trials – which can easily amount to millions of dollars – the addition of a deeply expensive coda stretches many state economies beyond their limits during these recessionary times. Some legal experts argue that the 60 percent decrease in death penalty sentences since 2000 stems from more skeptical juries, better defense and fewer district attorneys seeking the death penalty, but the truth may be that spiraling costs are singularly to blame.
“(The legal system) wants to drive up the cost,” Satterberg told FOX. “(It wants) to delay cases forever, only to turn around and use those arguments why we should get rid of the death penalty.”
Better ways to spend money
Endless mitigation and lengthy investigations into the possible causes of a criminal defendant’s behavior – critics would say excuses – have drawn out criminal trials at great cost. Some attorneys who support the death penalty hold that such extensive investigation is necessary for such complex cases, hence the accelerated costs. Yet as former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti (who tried O.J. Simpson) said, there are better ways to spend the money.
“We should take that $4 billion and give it to teachers, keep the kids in school,” Garcetti said, “That’s the way to really protect society.”