COSTS: Appeals for Last Two Inmates Executed in California Cost $1.76 Million

Records obtained by the Bay Area News Group in California show that the appeal costs for the last two men executed in the state were $1.76 million. At that rate, the cost of carrying out the executions of the 724 inmates still on death row could exceed $700 million if the death penalty is not repealed in November. Records show that the state and federal appeals for Clarence Ray Allen, the oldest and most recent death row inmate executed in the state, cost more than $761,000. Appeals for Stanley “Tookie” Williams cost the public nearly $1 million. These costs do not include the state’s expenses in defending the convictions, the trial costs, or the extra costs attributed to death-row incarceration. If the death penalty is repealed by ballot initiative in November, some of the money saved will be used for pursuing unsolved cases. Moreover, those convicted of murder will be required to work and make compensation to victims’ families. Carlos Moreno, who reviewed such appeals as both a California Supreme Court justice and Los Angeles federal judge said it would not be easy to reduce the costs: “That’s what it costs,” Moreno said. “I’ve seen it. I don’t think we’re overly generous.” Jeanne Woodford, a former warden at the San Quentin prison where death row is housed, said, “We’re spending this amount of money for a handful of people and it doesn’t really do anything for public safety.”

In 2011, a study co-authored by federal appeals court Judge Arthur Alarcon found that California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion on the death penalty since its reinstatement in 1978. In April, an initiative that would replace the death penalty with life without parole qualified for the November ballot. The initiative, SAFE California, would redirect $30 million a year for three years in estimated savings from repealing capital punishment toward law enforcement efforts to investigate unsolved rape and murder cases.

(H. Mintz, “The cost of California’s death penalty,” San Jose Mercury News, May 5, 2012). See Costs. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Costs.