Broke Counties Eschew Pricey Death Penalty

Capital punishment cases double, triple costs of normal trial
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2011 1:57 PM CDT
Broke Counties Eschew Pricey Death Penalty
FILE This Nov. 2005 file photo shows the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Corrections Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Could the recession snuff out the death penalty? Probably not, but it’s doing a real number on it. Death penalty cases have been cut in half since 2000, from 224 nationwide to 112 last year, and part of that dip appears to be related to the economy, Fox News reports. It costs two to three times more to try death penalty cases than ordinary murder cases, so many cash-strapped counties are choosing not to pursue them.

“It is a big deal for county budgets,” says a prosecutor from King County, Wash., which is currently pursuing two death penalty cases. Those cases have cost the county $4.3 million already—and neither has even gone to trial yet. The prosecutor blames the death penalty “industry,” accusing lawyers of purposely driving up costs with delay tactics, then arguing that capital punishment is too expensive. But defense attorneys argue that such cases are inherently expensive and difficult. (More death penalty stories.)

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