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DPIC RESOURCES: New State Pages Now Available

DPIC is pleased to announce the completion of our State Information Pages for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  These state profiles provide historical and current information on the death penalty for each state, including famous cases, past legislative actions, and links to key organizations and state officials.  For frequently updated information, such as execution totals, the size of death row, or the number of exonerations, see our State-by-State Database.  Readers are encouraged to send additional information, pictures, and links to organizations in their state.  You can reach the State Information Pages through the "State by State" button at the top of every page on our website or under the "Resources" tab in our main menu.


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NEW VOICES: "Death Penalty - Costly for Families of Victims Too"

Karil Klingbeil, whose sister was murdered 30 years ago in Washington, recently wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times regarding the emotional and psychological impact that seeking the death penalty can have on victims’ family members and friends.  Klingbeil, a former director of social work at Harborview Medical Center, was initially in favor of the death penalty for her sister’s killer, Mitchell Rupe.  Over the years, however, she came to oppose it in favor of life in prison without parole.  She wrote, “Victims' families, like our family, relive the horror of their loved one's murder with every court proceeding. Our system cannot seek this ultimate punishment without a great deal of procedure to avoid and correct errors, and still errors are made. The more hearings and trials there are, the more emotional trauma there is for the surviving family members.”  Klingbeil said she supports repealing the death penalty, calling it "a barbaric remnant of uncivilized society."  She concluded,  "It does constitute a cruel and unusual punishment at odds with our culture and way of life in the United States. We should be putting the money we spend on the death penalty on the front end of crime and apply it toward prevention."  Read full op-ed below.


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COSTS: Capital Trials Put Strain on Struggling County's Budget; Prosecutors Laid Off

In Washington, King County has spent $656,564 to prosecute three capital defendants in two cases and over $4.3 million to defend the accused. The trials have yet to begin, but money has been needed for expert witnesses, investigators, and forensic analysis. Prosecution costs do not include work done by police officers and crime-lab analysts. The county has struggled with constraints on its criminal justice budget and has eliminated the jobs of 36 prosecutors since 2008. A third case prosecuted last year has thus far cost the county another $2.4 million.  Other counties with similar budgetary concerns have chosen not to seek the death penalty. Defense attorney Jeff Ellis said that the high cost of the death penalty may be partly responsible for the drop in death penalty cases in other areas. He said, "There is a downturn in the number of death-penalty sentences being sought and imposed because of the costs associated with them. What's happening now [in King County] is a reverse of what's happening nationwide." According to a 2006 study released by the Washington State Bar Association, a death penalty trial costs approximately $470,000 more than a murder case in which the death penalty is not sought, and an additional $70,000 in court costs. The study also found that more than $200,000 is spent on average on appeals.


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COSTS: One Death Penalty Case Could Drain County's Budget in Washington

As Yakima County, Washington, faces the possibility of its first death penalty trial since 1989, the danger that the high cost of a capital case could drain the county's budget is a deep concern. Harold Delia, Yakima County court administrative consultant questioned the wisdom of seeking the death penalty against a defendant recently charged with murder, “You really have to wonder whether this really makes sense when you look at the cost-benefit analysis," he said. "In Yakima County, we have no reserves left. If we overspend on a death penalty case, money has to come from somewhere."  Taxpayers may spend up to $1 million on the trial proceedings alone.  In Yakima County, the 2005 slayings of a 21-year-old man and his 3-year-old daughter cost more than $2 million in defense costs alone, much of it incurred before the trial began, even though the death penalty ended up being no more than a threat in the case. A study commissioned by the Washington State Bar Association in 2006 estimated that a death penalty case can cost an additional $800,000 when considering additional costs to the prosecution and defense at the trial and the cost of appeals. 


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