How To Kill Death-Row Costs

January 31, 2012 - By admin

John Seiler:

I have a lot of problems with the death penalty. It is just to kill the worst criminals, who have removed themselves from civil society because of their murders and other high crimes. But I don’t trust the current California or U.S. governments to execute the right people. These governments themselves are lawless and laugh at justice.

Even so, it’s silly for anti-capital punishment advocates to argue their case because California’s death-row backlog is too costly. A new initiative being talked up claims that ending the death penalty, and putting death-row inmates back with the regular prison population, would save $200 million a year.

Reports the Fresno Bee, “Now, a growing chorus of death penalty critics who for years focused on moral arguments are making a pocketbook appeal to voters: Their ballot measure to abolish the death penalty focuses on the costs to taxpayers to execute a prisoner. They say they have collected enough signatures to get it on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“‘It is time to stop wasting money,’ said Natasha Minsker, statewide campaign manager for SAFE California, which proposed the measure. SAFE stands for Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement.

“Proponents of the initiative say taxpayers will save $1 billion over five years by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Those savings, they say, would be better spent on unsolved rape and murder cases, and for hiring teachers and building roads. There are 722 condemned prisoners on death row — including 42 from the central San Joaquin Valley’.”

Well, if money is the issue, then there’s a simpler way to save it: Start executing those on death row.

California’s death penalty continues to be wound up in court cases. But Texas has been executing criminals for years with the approbation of the same federal courts.

So, why not just adopt Texas’ rules, to the letter, concerning executions? Of if that doesn’t work, ship the murderers to Texas for the executions. As in California, Texas uses lethal injections.

Texas executes about 25 criminals a year. Adjusting for population, the rate would be about 38 per year in California.

For our 722 condemned criminals, it would take about 19 years to send them to their eternal rewards. Start with the youngest members of Death Row to save on the long-term costs of incarceration.

Additions to the death-row population would be offset by those who died of natural causes.

So the savings would add up fast.

Jan. 31, 2012

 

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Comments(14)
  1. Beelzebub says:

    There should be a time limit on all death penalty convictions. 10 years max. Smoking gun cases – like with the nut who shot and killed 9 people at a Seal Beach beauty salon or the whack job who knifed 4 homeless men to death – should get a 3 year limit for appeals.

    You see, they’ve turned the CA death penalty into a million dollar windfall program for insider death penalty lawyers. So there are 722 CA inmates on death row? The large majority die of natural causes.

    Let’s break down the costs. The CA Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ) – allegedly a non-partisan organization – says that it costs about $120M more each year to provide for death penalty inmates than it would cost if they were housed as life in prision without parole inmates. That is about $166,000 per DP inmate. Over a 30 year period that works out about $5M per inmate. Nearly all that $5M is spent in legal fees. The insider DP lawyers who get appointed to these cases by the high courts end up millionaires many times over. It must take lots of political clout to get appointed to those million dollar paper cases.

    And let’s not claim that the reason for these prolonged appeals are because we Americans so value human life. BS. We massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent iraqi civilians since 2003 and none of us even bat an eyelash. So let’s not even go there.

    The DP system has been gamed by legal establishment. If the DP system worked as originally designed it would serve the justice system well. But it has nothing to do with justice. Like with most other aspects of American life, it’s all about the money.

  2. It is, indeed, about money. I’ e said for 35the years that the death penalty is too costly for the return. But, speeding up the system is questionable in a country that places such a high value on life. Remember, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Texas has certainly made its share of mistakes and more than one innocent man has died. Rather rhan take that chance, we should abolish the death penalty thereby saving money while still exacting justice. After all, it is justice we should seek, not retribution.

  3. Beelzebub says:

    Keep da Peace,

    Do you think the Seal Beach killer who took out 9 innocent people with the smoking gun deserves 20 years of appeals? There is absolutely NO DOUBT that he was the murderer. Why should he not pay for what he did with his life? And I contend that America does not place a high value on human life. We massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. Did you find that offensive? Most Americans couldn’t care less. So why would you place the life of smoking gun murderers at a higher value than innocent civilians?

    The original intent of the death penalty does deliver justice. If a man maliciously takes another man’s life then he too should pay with his own. That is justice. The problem is that the death penalty has been manipulated by the justice system insiders a means for personal gain. That is what should be overturned. Not the death penalty.

  4. The DA says:

    Perhaps a change in the criminal justice system is in order. I would propose that in all death penalty cases a jury is presented with 2 verdict forms. One would be a finding of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the other would be a finding of guilty beyond all doubt. For those murderers found guilty beyond all doubt, they would be entitled to only one appeal based solely on challenging the legal due process as to whether they were given a fair trial. Amen.

  5. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Well, if money is the issue, then there’s a simpler way to save it: Start executing those on death row.

    I am no fan of Charlie Manson’s in the world and they deserve the death penalty. The PROBLEM is you cannot trust the system. The system goes after those least able to defend themselves and ONLY those. Did you see OJ get slapped with a death penalty?? No, you never will see people of means get the charge. Too many dirty prosecutors have wrecked the system and it cannot be saved because you cannot legislate morality or ethics to dirty cops or prosecutors. Ask Mike Nifong.

    One fairly well known and recent case;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Memphis_Three

  6. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    You see, they’ve turned the CA death penalty into a million dollar windfall program for insider death penalty lawyers.

    100% false. 99.999999% of the convicted on death row are poor and have no money and have appointed counsel. The state has always had huge problems getting ANY lawyer to work these cases-much less good ones- because the pay was limited to $75 an hour. The dork prison guards are comped MORE than that.

  7. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Let’s break down the costs. The CA Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice (CCFAJ) – allegedly a non-partisan organization – says that it costs about $120M more each year to provide for death penalty inmates than it would cost if they were housed as life in prision without parole inmates. That is about $166,000 per DP inmate. Over a 30 year period that works out about $5M per inmate. Nearly all that $5M is spent in legal fees.

    Wrong. Almost all of the money goes to the special confinement DP inmates are confined to. The lawyers get paid peanuts. If a blue chip law firm did the work these DP lawyers do the hourly rate would be $600-$1000 an hour. $75 an hour is what a DP lawyer earns.

  8. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Do you think the Seal Beach killer who took out 9 innocent people with the smoking gun deserves 20 years of appeals? There is absolutely NO DOUBT that he was the murderer.

    If he was mentally ill he deserves as many appeals as it takes to prove it. I don’t know if he is nor does anyone else. Again, I am NO FAN of killers, but the law cannot be short circuited.

  9. Beelzebub says:

    That’s not a bad idea, The DA. Something has to be done to distinquish the slam dunks from the wobblers. I remember when they convicted Scott Peterson of murdering his wife and unborn child and dumping the bodies. As I recall he was given the death penalty based entirely on circumstantial evidence. No witnesses, no murder weapon, no DNA. Was he guilty of the murder(s)? Yes, most likely. But based on evidence presented in the case I think he should be entitled to a lengthy appellate process. Compare him with the guy who massacred the 9 people in Seal Beach. I believe the cops found the murder weapon in his car once he was pulled over. Eyewitnesses saw him exit the beauty salon after the gunfire stopped and drive away in the car that he was pulled over in. Now IMO only a corrupted system would allow a guy like that to sit on death row for 15, 20 or even 30 years and spend our taxdollars appealing his case. I bet that at least half of the 722 death row cases are slam dunks too.

  10. Beelzebub says:

    “The state has always had huge problems getting ANY lawyer to work these cases-much less good ones- because the pay was limited to $75 an hour”

    Do you have a proof source that DP lawyers are limited to $75/hr? I realize that most DP lawyers are appointed. But they are not all public defenders. There are private attorneys on DP contract too.

    “Wrong. Almost all of the money goes to the special confinement DP inmates are confined to”

    I double checked the stats. And you are right. I was wrong. Although the appellate costs were significant they were not the largest expenditure. The 2008 study conducted by the CCFAJ revealed the total annual cost of the 677 CA DP inmates was about $135M. This is how it broke down: $20M – DP trials cost; $54M – post conviction appellate costs; $61M – DP housing cost. However, if you isolate the $54M in appellate costs that breaks down to an average of about $80k per DP inmate per year. @ your $75/hr. that would be 1066 hours (44 days) billed annually. That’s $2M in appellate legal fees for a DP inmate on DR for 25 years. IMO no DP inmate should be on DR for 25 years. By that time he should have either been executed or set free. Each of those inmates cost the taxpayer $200k a year on average. And in 2012 dollars you could tack on another 10-15%.

    “If he was mentally ill he deserves as many appeals as it takes to prove it. I don’t know if he is nor does anyone else. Again, I am NO FAN of killers, but the law cannot be short circuited”

    Post conviction it should not take any more than 3 years to determine if a man was sane or insane at the time of the crime. I’m not a shrink but if he fled the scene and tried to escape after the murder he must have known what he did was wrong.

  11. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    The $75 an hour is a number I have seen somewhere but cannot recall where. But, it is a serious problem for the state finding lawyers who will take these cases on. I will look for the costs of the appellate lawyers.

    Here is a paper where a Nor Cal county hired a lawyer for a complex death penalty case at $75 an hour-don’t know if this was an appeal or trial- bottom of page 7;

    http://aclunc.org/docs/criminal_justice/death_penalty/costs/why_does_the_death_penalty_cost_more.pdf

  12. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Here is an article about NY where they state $300 an hour for death penalty lawyers is 3 times more than CA, which would be $100 an hour;

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/1996-05-20/news/18004319_1_death-penalty-first-degree-murder-cases-court-appointed-lawyers

    There is no big $$$ for these lawyers.

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/1996-05-20/news/18004319_1_death-penalty-first-degree-murder-cases-court-appointed-lawyers

  13. Beelzebub says:

    Rex – I read that there are only about 100 qualified DP attorneys who handle appellate cases in the State of California for the 700+ DR inmates. Consider that this small population of attorneys received $54M for post-conviction appellate services in 2008. Do the math. That averages out to $540,000 per DP lawyer per year. Well above the $100/hr. mark. So somewhere along the line we are not being told the truth. Either the state and the feds didn’t spend $54M in 2008 on appellate legal services or the attorneys make much more than $100/hr.

  14. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    I know the state is ALWAYS looking for lawyers to handle these cases b/c no one wants them, b/c 1) the client, and 2) the low pay.

    The $54M in appellate costs may include everything, court, prosecutor defense.

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