Costly Capital Cases

In yesterday’s New York Times, an article appeared about the cost of capital cases and the drain of the death penalty on state resources. Particularly, the article highlighted a high profile case in Georgia, the case of Brian Nichols who was charged with killing four in a courthouse shooting in 2005. The cost of his defense so far has totaled $1.2 million. Legislative cuts to the budget, in addition to the high cost of his case, have left the public defender system in Georgia with no money. Until the bills are paid, the judge has delayed the trial. Read more here.

Yet again, the questions remain: How much are we as citizens willing to pay to maintain the death penalty when options like life without parole exist? When will we acknowledge that in order to have a fair and accurate system, states will have to spend significantly more on the death penalty system…money which states don’t have to spend?

The Tennessee Comptroller’s office recently testified to the legislative study committee that Tennessee has no idea about the amount of money that taxpayers are currently spending to maintain the death penalty–a policy as serious as the death penalty, and we don’t know what we spend on it.

However, we do know that Tennessee is at the bottom of the rankings in education and that many of our citizens don’t have health care. We do know that we need more police officers on the streets and more resources for crime prevention.

What will it take for us to determine our dollars are better spent to prevent violent crime rather than to kill offenders? How long will we throw our money into the black hole of the death penalty?

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