COSTS: Why the Death Penalty Costs So Much

Death penalty cases cost more than ordinary cases because all the lawyers, judges, and other personnel will put more hours into preparing, trying, and reviewing the issues, given that a life is at stake. Jack D’Aurora (pictured) of the Behal Law Group, writing in The Columbus Dispatch, described the time put in by just one federal judge in Ohio reviewing a capital case towards the end of its appeal, including the lethal injection process: “Hearings are attended, at a minimum, by three assistant attorneys general, three attorneys for the inmate, the Lucasville prison warden, the director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, counsel and other officials from the department, [the judge] and his two law clerks. These people all are paid by either the state or the federal government. Hearings can last from a few hours to multiple days.” The judge estimated that he and his staff spend 40 to 60 hours per month on some aspect of the death penalty. D’Aurora noted that recent cases took an average of 21 years between sentencing and execution date. “The cost likely is millions per case,” he noted. “Life sentences without parole would serve us much better, but we are fixated on a process that drains government resources,” he concluded.

(J. D’Aurora, “Death-penalty cases waste a lot of taxpayers’ money,” Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 8, 2012). See Costs. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Costs.