It Doesn’t Make Cents (or Dollars)!

Yesterday’s Bristol Herald Courier carried an interesting article on the costs of capital punishment in Tennessee. While citing the study done by the comptroller several years ago, which stated (with huge holes in its research) that each capital trial cost $46,000, the article points out that a current capital trial going on in Bristol has already cost over $85,000. And that isn’t even the total cost! Nor does it include the coming costs of the post-conviction appeals. The point is that the death penalty system costs us, as tax-payers, tons of money! The extra costs include:

  • Two defense counsel required for capital cases
  • Far greater investigation and expert testimony costs
  • Far more court time (a two-phased trial)
  • Greater costs for juries
  • Vastly more motions by both sides
  • Many more hours in preparation by the D.A.’s office

When we put all of this together, and include (as we should) the costs of all the trials where the death penalty is sought and not, in the end, received, we find that hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion dollars have been spent here in Tennessee on a system that has executed only 3 people in 47 years! Think of what all that money could have done for education, mental health care, or victims’ services.

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