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Monday, November 29, 2010

Ind. Law - More on monetary costs of the death penalty in Indiana

Supplementing this ILB entry from Nov. 17th, there are several recent Indiana stories on death penalty issues.

"High cost, errors have Indiana, Illinois rethinking death penalty,"
is the heading to this Nov. 28th story by Dan Carden of the NWI Times. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS | While the death penalty remains popular among residents of Indiana and Illinois, officials in both states are rethinking whether to keep the ultimate punishment, given its tremendous cost and the potential for error.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller this month called on state lawmakers to reconsider their support for the death penalty because of its effect on the already strained budgets of the state and its counties. * * *

The Republican attorney general pointed out that counties and the state often end up paying for both sides in a death penalty trial, as nearly all death penalty-eligible defendants receive legal assistance from the public defender at trial and in their mandated appeals.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency pegged the average cost of a capital case and one appeal at $449,887, not including expenses for prosecutors or sheriffs. Trials in which the maximum possible penalty is life without parole only cost an average of $42,658, according to the agency.

The National Institute for Corrections, a federal agency, pegs the annual cost of incarceration at $19,695 per inmate in Indiana and $21,334 in Illinois. That means a person sentenced to life in prison in Indiana would have spend more than two decades behind bars before the cost would outweigh just the defense cost of a capital punishment trial and initial appeal.

Legislation to get rid of the death penalty in Illinois could come up for a vote when the General Assembly returns to Springfield on Monday. * * *

Despite Zoeller's encouragement, Indiana lawmakers are unlikely to consider a death penalty repeal when they return to the Statehouse on Jan. 5.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Republican leaders of the Indiana House and Senate have said they want legislators focused on the state budget, redistricting and school and local government reform, leaving divisive issues like the death penalty for the 2012 session.

Two stories today from the Lafayette Journal Courier. The first, by Dorothy Schneider, includes this quote:
William McLauchlan, an associate professor of political science at Purdue University, said there's little the state can do to trim costs of death penalty trials.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent on trying to make sure that before the death penalty is imposed, the (appeals) procedure has been carefully and fully followed because of the extreme consequences," he said.

So if the General Assembly takes on the issue in the upcoming session, McLauchlan said legislators face an "all or nothing" decision.

"They can really only focus on the elimination of the death penalty all together," he said. "If you're going to have the death penalty for crimes, you have to be prepared to pay for it. And those costs are quite high."

Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco says Indiana's death penalty system is nearly broken because it costs so much. He says it's almost to the point where it's no longer viable.

In some cases, Ives said counties can shift trial costs to the state. But he said that's not a sustainable option in the long run.

Schneider also has a story reporting on the death penalty views of Lafayette-area lawmakers.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 29, 2010 09:21 AM
Posted to Indiana Law