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In its review of death penalty expenses, the State of Kansas concluded that capital cases are 70% more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases. The study counted death penalty case costs through to execution and found that the median death penalty case costs $1.26 million. Non-death penalty cases were counted through to the end of incarceration and were found to have a median cost of $740,000. For death penalty cases, the pre-trial and trial level expenses were the most expensive part, 49% of the total cost. The
West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, has told state lawmakers that resources devoted to the death penalty would be better spent elsewhere. He noted, "It is a practical issue. We have a death penalty law on the books, but we haven't executed anyone since 1960, and it doesn't look like anyone will be executed. The process is long, labor intensive and expensive. Now, any money we've put into death penalty cases has really been wasted." Strillacci
Governors Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming have signed into state law bipartisan legislation banning the execution of those who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes. Of the 38 death penalty states, 19 forbid the death penalty for juveniles. The federal government also forbids the practice. Twelve additional states do not allow the death penalty at all. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty this fall when it hears arguments in Roper v. Simmons.
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent reversal of Delma Banks' death sentence in Texas because of prosecutorial misconduct, the Dallas Morning News has called for a halt to executions while state officials review serious problems in the system:
It's hard to imagine a clearer message. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision lifting Texas inmate Delma Banks' death sentence paints as bright a line as jurists paint. The governor, Texas legislators and law enforcement officials should absorb the ruling and change the state's ways.
In a recent study examining death sentencing trends around the country, researchers reported significant differences between the rates at which black defendants who kill white victims are sentenced to death, as compared to the rate at which black defendants who kill black victims are sentenced to death. In every one of the seven states for which data was available, blacks who kill whites were far more likely to receive a death sentence than blacks who killed blacks. Because the study used sentencing rates
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is calling on prosecutors to open their files to defense attorneys in first-degree murder cases to avoid wrongful convictions like that of former death row inmate Alan Gell, who was exonerated and freed in February. Cooper called Gell's first trial a "travesty" and stated that the prosecutors committed "inexcusable neglect" in their handling of the trial. "The original prosecutors in this case owe everyone an apology: the defendant, the victim's family, the community, and everybody in the state. An unfair trial occurred," Cooper said.
"Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment?," a new book edited by Hugo Bedau and Paul Cassell, brings together judges, lawyers, prosecutors and philosophers to debate the death penalty in a spirit of open inquiry and exchange. The book discusses issues such as deterrence, innocence, life in prison without parole, and race. In addition to the editors, those who have chapters in the book inlcude: Judge Alex Kozinski, Stephen Bright, Joshua Marquis, Bryan Stevenson, Professor Louis Pojman and former Governor George Ryan. (Oxford University
Wyoming legislators in both the House and Senate have passed a measure to ban the death penalty for those who are under 18 at the time of their crime, marking the second time in one week that a legislative body in the United States has passed a ban on capital punishment for juvenile offenders. The bill now goes to Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal for his signature to become law. (Feb. 27, 2004). Earlier in the week, South Dakota's legislature voted to outlaw the practice (read more). The U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of
Shortly before the scheduled 6 p.m. execution of Hung Thanh Le, a Vietnamese foreign national on Oklahoma's death row, Governor Brad Henry granted a stay of execution in deference to Vietnamese officials who requested more time to review Le's file. Le, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from fleeing Vietnam, was scheduled to be executed despite a unanimous recommendation for clemency from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. More than 1,700 members of Oklahoma City's Vietnamese community signed a petition calling for clemency.
In a recent column, Marc H. Morial, the current President of the National Urban League and former President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, praised recent efforts to halt executions while questions about innocence and fairness are addressed by legislators. Morial noted:
There are growing calls for moratoria on executions, a growing reluctance among juries to levy the death penalty, efforts to insure that defendants in capital cases, who are most often poor, are represented by good attorneys, and even legislative attempts at the state and federal