Saturday, February 21, 2009

Death penalty is costly

Star Staff Report

When European settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment with them.

The first recorded execution in the territory was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608.

Kendall was hanged for being a spy for Spain.

Since that time, Virginia has carried out more than 1,300 executions, more than any other state, according to the Web site operated by Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP).

The site also reports that Virginia has executed more women and the youngest children of any state.

Early executions were carried out quickly and with little cost. Today, however, years of delays are typical and trial costs mount.

According the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, it takes three to five times longer for a pretrial defense investigation and up to 80 times longer for jury selection.

Although no current figures are available to show the cost to Virginia once a defendant is sentenced to death, figures from other states show that the costs are dramatically higher than the costs for prisoners sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The VADP Web site — and offer these figures:

The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life.

A Duke University study in 1993 found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. The majority of those costs occur at the trial level.

According to a study by the Palm Beach Post in 2000, enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole.

Based on the 44 executions Florida has carried out since 1976, that amounts to $24 million for each execution.

In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years — according to a 1992 study by the Dallas Morning News.

New Jersey has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on the death penalty since 1983, and hasn’t executed anyone.

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