In the December 16, 2012 Op Ed section of the Boulder Daily Camera, Stan Garnett, the elected District Attorney in Colorado’s 20th Judicial District, offered his views regarding the practicality of the death penalty to the Colorado legislature, which is considering a bill to repeal the death penalty.
Mr. Garrett is not an opponent of capital punishment. He describes himself as neither morally nor philosophically opposed to the death penalty. He leaves no doubt that his office will uphold the ultimate punishment as long as it is the law of Colorado.
And yet, Garnett mentioned practical problems with the death penalty, such as the time involved and the arbitrariness of who gets the death penalty, as well as the daunting problem of cost. In Colorado, prosecuting a death case through a verdict in the trial court can cost the prosecution well over $1 million.
Other states tell similar stories. Maryland prosecutors revealed recently that a single death penalty trial costs almost $2 million more than a non-death penalty trial. When retrials and appeals are added, Maryland taxpayers spent $37.2 million dollars each for the five executions carried out by the state.
The State of Kansas found that death penalty cases cost 70 percent more than murder trials that did not seek the death penalty.
Across the length and breadth of this country, state budgets have been cut severely. Unfortunately, further cuts are imminent. In our State of Missouri, the budget is strained to provide Medicaid services to poor citizens. Education cuts are causing many of our children to suffer.
More and more states are questioning the cost of the death penalty vs. alternatives such as life without parole. Missouri state Senator Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, has pre-filed Senate Bill 61 which would require the state auditor to study the costs of administering the death penalty. We urge state lawmakers to support this bill.
It makes sense that our representatives in Jefferson City, the stewards of our taxpayer dollars, investigate the cost of executions in Missouri. In these times of economic hardship and deep budget cuts, is the death penalty something that Missouri taxpayers can afford?
Zenobia Thompson is from Northwoods and Hedy (Edna) Harden is from University City.