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Cost Of Capital Punishment Essay

1029 words - 4 pages

Sentencing a defendant to death costs more money than sentencing him or her to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Most people do not realize the amount of money capital punishment costs a state. If someone were asked which costs more, the death penalty or life in prison, most people tend to answer life in prison. The truth is sentencing a person to death includes more than just the trial and the execution. Sentencing a person to capital punishment includes the cost for the trial, appeals processes, collecting and processing evidence, hiring expert witnesses, staffing a death row facility, and finally execution (Logan, n.d.).Trials for capital punishment cases cost much more than any other trial. Capital cases are more expensive because the trials tend to take longer, they typically require more lawyers and more-costly expert witnesses, and they are very likely to lead to multiple appeals (Urbina & Smith, 2009). Once a District Attorney decides to pursue a capital case, the court, attorney, and evidence fees all rise. The judge presiding over the trial must appoint an additional attorney for the defendant. The attorneys must hire expert witnesses to review and testify on the evidence presented and examine the defendant's background.These expert witnesses include psychologists, evidence experts, or pretrial investigators. The pretrial investigators locate and interview anyone who may offer testimony that can serve as mitigating evidence (Costanzo & White, 1994). These people may include family members, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and teachers. Psychologists will reconstruct the defendant's personal history to explain his or her crime or state of mind when the said crime was committed. Evidence experts are hired to testify to the jury about whatever type of evidence was tied to the crime. For example, if there was blood or forensic evidence at the crime scene, the expert witnesses may include a blood spatter analyst or a forensic scientist.The appeals process is automatic and it involves three tiers. In some cases appeals can last anywhere from 15 to more than 20 years. The first appeal is referred to as a direct appeal and is heard by the state Supreme Court. In the direct appeal, the Supreme Court is evaluating the initial trial for legal or constitutional errors. Further federal and state appeals are possible if a defendant's direct appeal is unsuccessful. These appeals are known as habeas corpus appeals. In state appeals, the defendant is allowed to raise issues beyond the initial trial. These issues may include new evidence, tainted evidence, impartiality of the jury, or incompetence of the defense council. If the trial court denies the state appeals, they can be filed with the district court of appeals. After exhausting state appeals, a defendant can file federal habeas corpus petitions. Appeals to federal courts must be confined to alleged violations of the Constitutional rights (Costanzo & White, 1994, p....

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