The Crippling Costs of the Death Penalty

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The Crippling Costs of the Death Penalty

Post  Jennie on Sun Jul 06, 2008 10:30 pm

It's been years since prosecutors have sought the death penalty in Washington State.

And now it's being considered in Benton County, a possible punishment for the woman accused of killing young woman Araceli Camacho Gomez and cutting out her unborn baby.

At this point, prosecutors have not made a decision on whether they'll go for capital punishment.

They must wait until supsect Pheingchai Sisouvanh's arraignment next week before they can consider putting death penalty on the table.

But should prosecutors choose to pursue death, the costs and complexity of putting a killer to death -- or fighting to keep one alive -- are exorbitant.

By nature, these cases require much stricter rules, lengthier investigations and more tedious procedures.

There is no other case where ensuring the punishment fits the crime is so high, because in no other cases are the stakes so high.

"With this unanimous decision, the penalty will be death," said a Benton County Judge during triple murderer Jeremy Sagastegui's sentencing in 1998.

It costs a lot of money to get to those few words, the final judgement day for a killer. Statewide, 4 people have been executed in the last quarter century, 1 from Benton County in 1998.

I pulled a recent report from the washington state bar association.

It breaks down the numbers showing you the cost of the trial, attorney fees and the appeals process.

The cost of trial alone may be a million dollars. This includes paperwork, staffing and investigation costs.

And while any murder trial is expensive, going for life without parole could cost $70,000 less.

Attorney fees are just as exorbitant.

Prosecutors fees can range anywhere from $25,000 to a million dollars, with some state prosecutors averaging $217,000. And you pay for it: it's your tax dollars at work.

In most capital punishment cases, prosecutor's costs are absorbed by the county.

And on the defense side, you can't just hire anyone off the street to defend you in a capital murder trial. State law requires at least 2 attorneys represent you, and one must be certified in the death penalty.

That can cost $100,000 to a million, with defense attorneys averaging about $250,000. Plus, most murder suspects can't afford that so a public defender is paid with your tax dollars.

Add that up and just attorneys fees might push a half-million dollars.

Not to mention, when the trial is over, it isn't usually over. Most murder cases are appealed. The appellate costs average $117,00 for a capital crime.

The report estimates it costs $100,000 less if the death penalty isn't at play.

Just to be clear, prosecutors must wait until Sisouvanh's arraignment next week before they can consider putting death penalty on the table.

Once she pleas, they'll have 30 days to make a decision.

(source: Chelsea Kopta, KEPR TV News)
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