COSTS: Capital Cases in Nevada Much More Expensive Than Non-Death Penalty

Posted on Dec 03, 2014

A recent study commissioned by the Nevada legislature found that the average death penalty case costs a half million dollars more than a case in which the death penalty is not sought. The Legislative Auditor estimated the cost of a murder trial in which the death penalty was sought cost $1.03 to $1.3 million, whereas cases without the death penalty cost $775,000. The auditor summarized the study’s findings, saying, “Adjudicating death penalty cases takes more time and resources compared to murder cases where the death penalty sentence is not pursued as an option. These cases are more costly because there are procedural safeguards in place to ensure the sentence is just and free from error.” The study noted that the extra costs of a death penalty trial were still incurred even in cases where a jury chose a lesser sentence, with those cases costing $1.2 million. See Chart below.

The study was based on a sample of Nevada murder cases and include the costs of incarceration. Because certain court and prosecution costs could not be obtained, the authors said the costs were, “understated,” and may be higher than the estimates given.

(C. Lochhead, “Audit: Death penalty nearly doubles cost of Nevada murder cases,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 2, 2014; Legislative Auditor, “Performance Audit: Fiscal Costs of the Death Penalty,” November 17, 2014). See Costs and Studies.