COSTS: Ohio Judge Warns of High Costs in Upcoming Death Penalty Trial

An upcoming death penalty trial in Ohio will cost three to four times more than the cost of a life-without-parole trial, according to the trial judge, Michael Sage (pictured). The death penalty trial for Hector Alvarenga Retana, scheduled to begin on October 31, is expected to cost Butler County an estimated $250,000, according to the judge, not counting the cost of appeals. He said, “[The cost] is so great we can’t afford to pay for that directly out of our ongoing budget. All the costs associated with that we take directly to the commissioners.” A co-defendant in the case also faced the death penalty but was sentenced to prison for 78-years-to-life. Despite the high costs, defense attorneys are often paid very little. Chris Pagan, who has defended several death penalty cases, recently said he would have to abandon this type of work because of the inadequate compensation death penalty defense attorneys receive: “The [compensation rates] are extremely low compared with the costs in other metropolitan areas… . I’m not doing it anymore I can’t afford it. You get 40 bucks an hour and my overhead costs more than that.”

(D. Callahan, “Cost to taxpayers high in death penalty cases,” Middletown Journal, October 17, 2011). See Costs and New Voices.