Study Reveals Maryland’s Death Penalty is Costing Taxpayers $186 Million
A study released on March 6, 2008 found that Maryland taxpayers are paying $186 million dollars for a system that has resulted in five executions since 1978 when the state reenacted the death penalty. That would be equivalent to $37.2 per execution. The study, prepared by the Urban Institute, estimates that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million - $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case. The study examined 162 capital cases that were prosecuted between 1978 and 1999 and found that seeking the death penalty in those cases cost $186 million more than what those cases would have cost had the death penalty not been sought. At every phase of a case, according to the study, capital murder cases cost more than non-capital murder cases.

The 106 cases in which a death sentence was sought but not handed down in Maryland cost the state an additional $71 million. Those costs were incurred simply to seek the death penalty where the ultimate outcome was a life or long-term prison sentence.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, noted, “This is a compelling argument against the death penalty - the enormous costs to the state’s taxpayers.” The costs report comes as Maryland lawmakers are debating whether to repeal the death penalty and holding hearings in Annapolis.

What the study found:

  • The death penalty has cost Maryland at least $186 million. This is state spending over and above what Maryland would have spent had there been no death penalty.
  • The cost of a single death sentence in Maryland is approximately three times higher – or $1.9 million more – than the costs of a comparable non-death penalty case, even taking into account the costs of long-term incarceration.
  • The cost for prosecutors to seek but not get a death sentence is $670,000 more ($1.8 million total) for a single case than for a comparable non-death case – for the same outcome of a life or long-term prison sentence.
  • When the death penalty is imposed, the court costs alone jump to almost seven times higher ($1.7 million compared to $250,000).

(“Death penalty costs Md. more than life term,” by Jennifer McMenamin, The Baltimore Sun, March 6, 2008). See Costs. Read the entire study here.