The death penalty is expensive. An increasing body of evidence shows that death penalty cases cost far more than cases seeking life in prison without parole, from trial preparation to execution. Seeking the death penalty automatically triggers heightened obligations for state-appointed defense attorneys. A recent review of the federal death penalty found that the median cost of a case in which the government seeks the death penalty is nearly eight times greater than similar cases where the death penalty was not sought.
By simply seeking the death penalty, the State significantly raises the stakes of a case – not only to the defendant, but to the taxpayers who foot the bill.
Nevada has no official studies of its own to confirm that the death penalty in fact is more expensive for the state. AB 501 authorizes such an in-depth study into the fiscal costs of the death penalty in Nevada and places a moratorium on executions through July 1, 2013 while the study is conducted.
We do know, however, that Nevada has expansive and often vague statutory language concerning the capital punishment. This opens the door to both costly litigation to pin down the meaning of these statutes and to prosecutors seeking the death penalty more often than they should. AB 460 aims to streamline and clarify Nevada’s death penalty laws and better allocate the limited resources of the criminal justice system.
Both of these bills will help the state focus money where it is most needed, and not on the costly, inefficient system of the death penalty.
Please send an email to your Assemblyperson now and urge them to support AB 460 and AB 501.
Sample Email in Support of AB 460 and AB 501
Like many Nevadans, I am concerned about the financial priorities of the state. I know that you have very hard choices ahead in deciding where to spend our limited resources and where to make cuts. There are no easy solutions, and like you, I want our state to focus its resources in the most thoughtful and meaningful ways. That is why I am strongly urging you to support AB460 and AB501.
AB501 will examine how much money we are spending on the death penalty over life in prison without the possibility of parole, and will impose a temporary moratorium on executions while the study is conducted. AB460 will clarify vague statory language about the death penalty, reducing the need for costly litigation over the laws and over-charging the death penalty.
Both AB460 and AB501 will save the state money – money that is desparately needed in other areas of the budget. We need to start being smart on crime, and can no longer afford to continue down such an expensive road.
Note by NPW: NPW supports at least the end of the death penalty and the end of Life without Parole sentences, as well as excessive sentencing.