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Topic: criminal justice

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February 18, 2014 at 6:25 AM

How the death penalty can bankrupt a county

At a meeting of Washington state county administrators last year, Jim Jones said one budget-busting scenario provoked the biggest wave of anxiety among the budget officers: a death penalty murder prosecution.

Jones, the Clallam County administrator and then-president of the Washington County Administrative Association, told me that five counties said the same thing: “If we had a death penalty case, and had to pay $1 million (in legal costs), we’d go bankrupt.”county death penalty

In an editorial calling for the repeal of the death penalty, The Seattle Times editorial board cited the enormous cost of capital punishment. Counties, with the duty of paying for courts, front much of the cost. The most comprehensive study comparing the cost of death and non-death sentence murder cases estimated the difference at $1 million – including the costs of lifetime incarceration. Counties have to pay for multiple top-end, death-penalty-qualified lawyers, experts, investigations and trials that stretch weeks, if not months.

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Comments | Topics: criminal justice, death penalty, politics