Costly Death Penalty Takes Toll on State Budgets

A report in the Polk County (Florida) Lakeland Ledger examined the financial impact of costly capital trials on states that are struggling to make ends meet. The report noted that death penalty cases negatively impact county governments because the hundreds of thousands of dollars that is spent annually on capital cases takes away funding from crucial indigent care programs and other important services. As an example, the paper notes, "Take the case of Tavares Wright. The legal bill stands at $200,000 and a 3rd murder trial for the Lakeland man is pending after the first 2 ended in mistrials." During the early 1990's, two capital trials in Jefferson County, Florida caused significant debt for the county. The trials were so expensive that they forced significant cuts in the county budget, such as a freeze on employee raises and a 20% reduction in the library budget. The article notes that counties in Texas, Indiana, Georgia, and elsewhere face similar budget challenges. (Lakeland Ledger, December 14, 2003). See Costs.