On The Money: Cost Of Killing The Death Penalty

Nearly two out of every three Americans support the death penalty, according to the latest Gallup Poll.

But California is paying a high price for keeping prisoners on death row -– and then not executing them. A new study, conducted by a federal judge finds the death penalty in California has become a multi-billion dollar debacle.

Death penalty opponents point to the case involving Kevin Green –- a Marine who was stationed in California. Green’s pregnant wife Dianna was brutally attacked by a serial killer in 1979.

“He came in with a 2×4 and hit her in the head until he thought she was dead,” Green told CBS13. “She was nine and a half months pregnant. Ten hours after the attack, our daughter died.”

The killer, Gerald Parker, is now in San Quentin on death row.

But Kevin Green doesn’t want the so-called “Bedroom Basher” to be executed behind bars.

“It’s a human system, we make mistakes,” he told CBS13.

Kevin Green knows all about mistakes –- because he was the one wrongfully convicted for attacking Dianna. He served 16 years behind bars in California until new DNA evidence cleared Green of the crime that Gerald Parker later admitted to committing. Green later received $620,000 from the state to compensate him for spending time behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Wrongful convictions aside, death penalty opponents are now using a new argument to advance their case. They point to the new study authored by Judge Arthur Alarcon, a senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The study concludes that capital punishment is wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

“Four billion dollars to execute 13 people,” said Jeanne Woodford, the former warden at San Quentin prison. While there, Woodford carried out four executions -– at a cost of $308 million each.

Yet California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006 -– also making those 714 death row prisoners very expensive.

“California’s death penalty costs $184 million more per year than if we had a system of life without possibility of parole,” Woodford told reporters at a recent Sacramento news conference.

Death penalty cases are much more expensive to prosecute.

“Every time a prosecutor seeks death in a case, I have to assign two of our most senior trial deputies,” said Ron Brown, public defender for Los Angeles County. Brown told lawmakers at the Capitol, “They’re not only experienced but they’re very costly.”

Twenty times more costly, according to the study, which found that taxpayers are stuck with infinite appeals at $300,000 for every death row inmate.

“We found that the average time now for a direct appeal after a conviction in California is approaching 15 years,” Judge Alarcon told CBS13.

Richard Davis

Richard Davis

It takes even longer to execute a prisoner in California –- the average wait is now 25 years. But it’s a cost that many crime victims and their families are willing to pay for justice –- that’s what Mark Klaas is looking for – after his 12-year old daughter Polly was kidnapped and killed by a lifelong criminal, Richard Allen Davis.

“And when they strap him in to the gurney, believe me I’ll be there and I’ll be drinking champagne that night,” Mark Klaas told CBS13.

Davis was convicted in 1996 and has been living on death row at San Quentin ever since. Despite the cost, Mark Klaas says it would be a big mistake to get rid of the death penalty.

“It’s the last thing they want and I think the last thing that we want as a society is to give them what they want,” Klaas said.

But executing the will of the people is expensive -– with costs expected to more than double to $9 billion by 2030, according to the Alarcon study.

California has executed just 13 prisoners since 1978, and there’s a movement now to eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole. That initiative could be on the ballot for California voters next year.

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  • Uncle Bob

    The elite liberal left … who not only oppose the death penalty, but also life w/o parole, have executed a perfect strategy against the death penalty in California. Stalling. Doing whatever it takes to add red tape, time and obstacles in the way of the death sentance being performed. But never forget, these same opponents to the death penalty are the same ones who oppose life w/o parole, and who believe pedophiles can be cured, and that none of the 715 currently on death row are actually guilty.

    They also claim that the death penatly does not deter crime. Well no. If it takes more than 25 years to happen, of course not. But you bet it will if it took 3 years or less.

    If we started on January 1, 2012, and executed just one per day we could have the current death row population gone by December 16, 2013. Now think about how much money could be saved then if none of them are left.

  • A Youth of America

    I don’t understand why it has to go threw so many steps to execute someone…I don’t kno much about our government, but so far they’re just leaving this country like sh** for us youth…I think in Iran they execute people within a couple months…All they do is hang ’em and it done with…Is it really so hard to execute someone…Ill volunteer to execute a those POS…Our government just loves to spend money…What’s the point of the death penalty if the inmates will just end up dying of old age…The government really needs to get off there a** and start going threw with these executions…Why is it that they murder someone that is innocent, but yet they get to live for years and years without being executed it’s stupid…Stop waisting our tax payers money on something the government doesn’t even go threw with.

  • Our voices

    I totally agree with both comments below. I think that California is stalling the executions and this is why I hate politics and anything that has to do with it. Families of victims deserve better than this, and the killer deserves the same fate that he caused to an innocent person. There is no need to go through all these f…. appeals, if California wants to save money, do the executions quicker morons, not stall them for 25 years. Who does that? Its ridiculous. California’s reasons for losing money is their fault, the process needs to go quicker and people who have caused so much harm deserve to be punished.

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    On The Money: Cost Of Killing The Death Penalty « CBS Sacramento

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