Re: death penalty
People have mentioned the death penatly being more expensive than life imprisonment, I'm curious as to why that's the case. Is it legal costs of all the appeals?
That's a major part of the cost, but there are a lot of other factors as well.
Why is the death penalty so expensive?
Legal costs: Almost all people facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. The state must assign them two public defenders, and pay for the costs of the prosecution as well.
Pre-trial costs: Capital cases are far more complicated than non-capital cases. Experts will probably be needed on forensic evidence, mental health and the social history of the defendant.
Jury selection: Because of the death penalty question, jury selection in capital cases is much more time consuming and expensive.
Trial: Death penalty trials can last over four times longer, requiring juror and attorney compensation, in addition to court personnel and other related costs.
Incarceration: Most death rows involve solitary confinement in a special facility. These require more security and other accommodations as the prisoners are kept for 23 hours a day in their cells.
Appeals: To minimize mistakes, every inmate is entitled to a series of appeals. The costs are borne at taxpayers' expense. These appeals are essential because some inmates have come within hours of execution before evidence was uncovered proving their innocence.
^ Be sure to read this link especially. It breaks down the costs by state and at the federal level in detail.
Capital Trials Are Different
Defendants must have a dual trial--one to establish guilt or innocence and if guilty a second trial to determine whether or not they would get the death penalty.
- a four fold increase in the number of motions filed
- more investigators and expert testimony
- more lawyers specializing in death penalty litigation
Death penalty trials are more expensive for several reasons: They often require extra lawyers; there are strict experience requirements for attorneys, leading to lengthy appellate waits while capable counsel is sought for the accused; security costs are higher, as well as costs for processing evidence — DNA testing, for example, is far more expensive than simple blood analyses.
After sentencing, prices continue to rise. It costs more to house death row inmates, who are held in segregated sections, in individual cells, with guards delivering everything from daily meals to toilet paper.
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