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What Does the Death Penalty Really Cost?

A recent study performed by the University of Nevada details the exorbitant costs of the death penalty. Dr. Terance Miethe, a member of the Department of Criminal Justice at the Las Vegas campus recently looked at the amount of time spent by attorneys on capital murder cases versus other murder cases with some astonishing results.

It seems that attorneys representing capital murder defendants spend an average of 2,298 hours preparing for a death penalty trial. That amount is more than double the 1,211 hours that is typically spent preparing for a non-capital murder trial. This amounts to an average charge of $229,800 for public defenders who represent the accused in a courtroom. Defendants who hire their own counsel can expect to pay as much as $287,250 for their defense.

There are currently 80 capital murder cases pending in Clark County alone. The survey that was conducted late last year determined that these cases will cost taxpayers a whopping $15 million dollars more to prosecute than if they were not death penalty cases.

The additional costs to take these cases to trial does not include any subsequent appeals that might occur later. It also does not take into account the cost of convening a death penalty committee to determine whether capital punishment is appropriate.

The additional costs related to a death penalty trial are the primary reason why it is more expensive to seek capital punishment vs. life without parole. The increased tax burden is only one of the reasons why neighboring California is considering abolishing the death penalty altogether.