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Excessive cost leads Idaho, Mississippi prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty

From The Idaho Statesman‘s “Idaho prosecutors opting not to seek death penalty“:

Rather than take death penalty cases to juries, prosecutors across the state are opting not to pursue executions at all or are agreeing to plea deals that put killers in prison for life. Prosecutors have to weigh the high costs of pursuing the death penalty and the suffering of victims’ families through years of appeals against a sentence that is largely symbolic.

Just one person in half a century has been executed in Idaho–double-murderer Keith Eugene Wells, who dropped all appeals and demanded a lethal injection in 1994.

Likewise, Mississippi prosecutors have decided that pursuing the death penalty is not the best use of their budgets in light of cuts they’ve had to make. From The Clarion Ledger‘s “Budget kills Hinds capital cases“:

The Hinds County district attorney’s office had been considering the death penalty against the suspects in the two unrelated cases but now says, because of budget issues and other factors, seeking capital punishment in case of a conviction is now off the table.”We won’t be doing as many of those (death-penalty cases),” District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said.

Hinds County cut about 70 jobs, delayed the opening of a jail expansion, denied departments’ requests for new equipment, scaled back on contracted services such as janitors, and left less than $179,000 in reserve for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

The cuts were necessary because the proposed revenue of $56.3 million for fiscal 2010 was outweighed by estimated expenses of $57.2 million, officials said.

Death penalty cases are more expensive than others. When there is a death-penalty case, the jury is sequestered in a hotel and provided meals during the duration of a trial.

Longtime Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn estimates the cost at more than $15,000 for a death-penalty trial, depending on factors such hotel and meal costs. The cost of a non-death penalty case would be significantly lower, she said.

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  1. Pauley says

    Perhaps Kentucky’s Attorney General could begin to take the time and effort to find out what it actually costs his office and the Commonwealth attorneys in KY to prosecute death cases and see them to their end. So far he has danced around the question when given the opportunity to shed light. Claiming his office does Class D felonies and death penalty cases within the budget that is given, he appears oblivious to how many more Class D felony cases could be resolved more quickly if his staff wasn’t wasting taxpayer dollars trying to kill someone.

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