COSTS: Death Penalty Costs in Texas Outweigh Life Imprisonment

County estimates in Texas indicate that the death penalty system is much more expensive than sentencing inmates to life imprisonment. Gray County spent nearly $1 million seeking the death penalty against Levi King, even though he pleaded guilty to murder.  Moreover, these costs do not include the cost of appeals, which will further increase the cost of the capital case, nor the costs of cases in which the death penalty is sought but not given.  By comparison, a non-death penalty murder case in nearby Lubbock County typically costs  about $3,000, court officials estimate.  The average cost to house an inmate in Texas prisons is $47.50 per day, according to Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  Thus it would cost about $17,340 to house an inmate for a year and $693,500 for 40 years, far less than even part of the death penalty costs.  The regional public defender's office estimates that just the legal costs for a death penalty case from indictment to execution are $1.2 million.  Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney Matt Powell said, “I don’t dispute that it’s more expensive,” but said he never takes cost into account when deciding whether to seek the death penalty.

 

(L. Carver, "Death penalty cases more expensive than lifetime imprisonment, but local CDA says cost never a consideration," Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, December 13, 2009).  See also Costs.