Reprieve on Death Penalty Debated

Reprieve on Death Penalty Debated
See original: LVRJ.

A bill debated Tuesday by Nevada lawmakers would impose a moratorium on capital punishment in Nevada until mid-2011, while a study is done on the cost of the death penalty.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, chief sponsor of AB190, said it’s time to “determine if we are simply throwing away money.”

Anderson, D-Sparks, said he opposes the death penalty because of its racial inequity, difficulty of finding adequate defense attorneys and costs of the overall system.

AB190, discussed in the Assembly Committee on Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments, wouldn’t prohibit prosecutors from seeking a death sentence, but would prohibit the state from carrying out executions while the moratorium is in effect.

Several studies have said that the cost of capital punishment is greater than the cost of life in prison without parole.

Some estimates are that prosecution and appeals for death penalty cases amount to $3 million to $4 million per inmate — about three times the cost of life-in-prison sentences.

“It’s simply not a cost-effective way to do business,” said Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal defender who has been involved in many death penalty cases in Nevada.

“Death penalty cases cost more because the U.S. Supreme Court has said death is different,” Clark County District Judge Stephen Dahl said, adding that death penalty cases require a team approach, with more lawyers and steps in the process.

Although the bill doesn’t seek to end the death penalty, the committee heard testimony on why many people oppose capital punishment.

“Across the nation, almost no individual placed on death row could afford to hire an attorney,” said Rebecca Gasca, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “It has been shown that the quality of legal representation is a better predictor of whether or not someone will be sentenced to death than the facts of the crime.”

Besides the fiscal impact to the state, Anderson said he has personal reasons to oppose the death penalty. After a member of his family was murdered, the accused was charged with the death penalty, and Anderson said that had a dramatic effect on his family.

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