States unwilling to pay the huge costs of defending people charged in capital cases may be unable to hold executions.
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The evidence to date suggests that seeking and imposing a capital sentence is 2-5 times greater than the costs associated with life sentences. The research also suggests that the bulk of the cost of death sentences occurs post conviction.
Efforts to speed up the death penalty process have accomplished two things - the costs have not decreased and the quality and quantity of legal representation has not improved. Despite the greater cost, we are still not investing enough money to raise the probability of fair and predictable trials and appeals. We could redirect the millions spent on capital cases (wasted funds given the high reversal rates) to more effective crime control policies.
As I've stated elsewhere, the most difficult task that the State performs should be the executions of one of its citizens. It should not be easy to kill anyone. But the failure to adequately fund capital defense has left the process in a shambles and has undermined the public's confidence in our legal system.
The continued existence of the death penalty in the U.S. renders policy statements criticizing other country's human rights records as hypocritical rhetoric given our failure to ensure a reliable legal process that ensures conviction of the guilty, acquittal of the innocent, and is not infected with racial and social class bias.