Thursday, February 26, 2009


Cost of the Death Penalty

"When Gov. Martin O’Malley appeared before the Maryland Senate last week, he made an unconventional argument that is becoming increasingly popular in cash-strapped states: abolish the death penalty to cut costs."

Yesterday's New York Times contained an article titled "Citing Cost, States Consider End to Death Penalty."

Read the article by CLICKING HERE and be sure to check out the graphic.

More highlights:

"The economic realities have forced even longtime supporters of the death penalty, like Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, to rethink their positions.

Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, has said he may sign a bill repealing capital punishment that passed the House last week and is pending in a Senate committee. He cited growing concerns about miscarriages of justice, but he added that cost was a factor in his shifting views and was “a valid reason in this era of austerity and tight budgets.”

My favorite highlight:

"Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, an organization in Sacramento that works on behalf of crime victims, called the anticipated savings a mirage. He added that with the death penalty, prosecutors can more easily offer life sentences in a plea bargain and thus avoid trial costs.

But Eric M. Freedman, a death penalty expert at Hofstra Law School, said studies had shown that plea bargaining rates were roughly the same in states that had the death penalty as in states that did not."

Here in Tennessee, we are spending millions on our death penalty system while we have viable alternatives like life without parole and life in prison (51 years before parole eligibility). Like other states, we are in a budget crisis and the death penalty is a black hole of spending that will continue to cost this state millions of taxpayer's dollars.

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Comments :

You know, Ike, you're a true believer. You'll swallow whole something just because some law school prof said so.

Mr. Scheidegger is a very bright guy and a top guy in his field.

Of course, it stands to reason that when you take away an incentive to plead to an LWOP sentence, that you'll have less of them.

But hey, you got some law prof's word for it.

If you're intellectually curious, follow the link.
My Sheiddeger and his "research" organization also championed an initiative that was supposed to end plea bargaining in CA. Until yesterday, they have always opposed the practice. Funny how that works.
Also the statistics are from 1988 - not the most credible report. A lot has changed in the death penalty AND in plea bargaining since then.
well, guys, you wanna take on Mr. Scheidegger, go to his blog and have at it.

It stands to reason that if death is off the table, not many will plead guilty and get LWOP or the max term of years. It's your side that is talking about the cost savings--you guys have the burden on this one.
Sounds to me like you're passing the buck.

"It stands to reason"

Is that a study you conducted on your own? Or perhaps it is from 1988, 20 years ago?

"You guys have the burden on this one"

No, the public has the burden of paying for a wasteful system. The studies are simply exposing that burden.
I don't care what it sounds like, genius.

In a regime where you have LWOP and the death penalty, there is a rational incentive, particularly if the death penalty is regularly used, to plead guilty and get LWOP. If there's no DP option, there's no incentive to plead guilty to get LWOP, so you will have less LWOP pleas. People respond to incentives, or did you miss that day in college?

The point about the burden, genius, is that the cost is being cited as a reason to junk the death penalty. But we are pointing out an issue that is not quantified in the cost-savings analysis, namely the lack of incentive to plead guilty and get LWOP.

Besides, a lot of those cost-savings studies were done by anti-DP folks. They are suspect.
What are you basing this rational incentive on? More of your studies that you have conducted in your head?
7:09--just on how the world works. I don't base how I raise my kids on statistics either.

If you can't understand how taking DP off the table disincentivizes plea deals for LWOP from the defense point of view, then I cannot help you. But hey, don't sweat it, under Atkins, you're not eligible for capital punishment.
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