The death penalty is unjust, unnecessary, expensive and ineffective. The United States and Kentucky is at a tipping point with years of declining support for the death penalty. In fact, in 2007 the Herald Leader reported that given the choice of sentencing a murderer to death or a long prison term, 69% say prison is the appropriate sentence.
In light of all the new information we have available, you do not have to be an abolitionist to understand executions are just bad public policy. This is reflected in the host of other states introducing abolition legislation with major success in New Jersey and New Mexico.
Many people are surprised to learn that the death penalty is more expensive than life in prison without chance of parole. This is for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the substantial legal costs.
Almost all people facing the death penalty cannot afford their own representation, forcing the state to cover their defense in addition to paying for the costs of prosecution.
Death penalty trials also require experts in forensics as well as mental health professionals and social workers responsible for an in-depth analysis of the social history of the defendant.
Capital trials can last four times longer, requiring juror and attorney compensation in addition to court personnel and other related costs.
Most death row inmates,like those in Kentucky, are in solitary confinement in a special facility which demands an increase in security and personnel.
Finally, appeals are necessary to minimize mistakes. These appeals, however, are at the taxpayer’s expense.
A 2008 Study (Urban Institute; Justice Policy Center) in Maryland found that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $1.9 million to $3 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case (there are currently 36 individuals on KY’s Death Row)
- The average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought (The Federal Judiciary, 2008).
- That same 2008 study also found that defendants with low representation costs were more than twice as likely to receive a death sentence.
- A 2004 study conducted by the Tennessee comptroller concluded that death penalty trial cost an average of 48% more than the average costs of trials where prosecutors seek life imprisonment. The Tennessee Court of Appeals reversed 29% of capital cases on direct appeal (Morgan).
Morgan, J. (2004) State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. (2004, July 12). Death penalty trials cost more than other first-degree murder cases. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/RE/nr071204.pdf.
Roman, J., Chalfin, A., Sundquist, A., Knight, C., & Darmenov, A. (2008). The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland. Urban Institute; Justice Policy Center. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/CostsDPMaryland.pdf.
The Federal Judiciary. (2008). Update on the Cost, Quality and Availability of Defense Representation in Federal Death Pnalty Cases: Preliminary Report on Phase one of the Research. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/defenderservices/FDPC_Contents.cfm.
It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind.
-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman 1903
One would think that the possibility of facing execution would significantly deter would be criminals from their felonious acts. However, years of research indicates the opposite.
States with the death penalty consistently have higher rates of murder than those without. In 2007 the difference was 42%; in 2006, it was 40%.(FBI, 2008).
- A 2002 study found that regionally the South accounts for over 80% of the executions in this country, and yet it has consistently had the highest murder rate of all four regions. By contrast, the Northeast, which at the time of this study had only had 3 executions, had the lowest murder rate of all four regions (FBI, 2008).
- A survey of criminal justice experts showed an overwhelming majority (88%) did not believe the death penalty is a proven deterrent to crime (Radelet, 2009).
- A poll of police chiefs in the country found that the majority (67%) do not believe that the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides. In fact, the police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among effective ways of reducing violent crime (Hart Research, 1995).
Hart Research. (1995). Retrieved from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/law-enforcement-views-deterrence.
Radelet, M., & Lacock, T., Do Executions lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99.
If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed.
-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Over 135 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
- Larry Osborne, the only Kentuckian released from death row, was acquitted and released on August 1, 2002. He was 17 when he was arrested and spent over three years on death row.
In a 1990 report, the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office found "a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty."
79% of the victims of crimes that have resulted in an execution since 1976 have been white.
- Currently 42% of our death row population is African-American.
- Southern states accounted for 95 percent of the executions in 2008 (Texas alone accounted for about 50 percent). In 2007,the last year for which statistics are available, juries returned 115 death sentences throughout the nation and, of these, over 60 percent were in the South.
- A 2002 study found that more than two-thirds of American counties have never imposed the death penalty since 1977. Only 3 percent (92 out of 3,066) of the nation’s counties account for 50 percent of its death sentences in that 32 year period.