Danielle Van Dam's Parents Sue Convicted Killer

The parents of slain San Diego 7-year old Danielle van Dam have sued David Westerfield , her convicted killer, for an unspecified amount of damages. Westerfield gets sentenced tomorrow, most likely to death. That's what the jury recommended, although the judge can override its decision.

"In their lawsuit, the van Dams ask that the self-employed Westerfield be restrained from transferring any of his assets, which include a design engineering firm."

We certainly don't begrudge the van Dams damages from the person who killed their daughter.

But we would like to point out the cost to the taxpayers of prosecuting and defending a death penalty case as opposed to a murder case where the punishment sought and obtained is life in prison without the possibility of. Here are the reasons why and the breakdown of the cost differentials.

Most defendants facing a capital trial are indigent and must have court appointed counsel. A study done by the Sacramento Bee argued that California would save $90 million per year if it were to abolish the death penalty. The average cost of a capital trial in Texas is $2.3 million--three times the cost to incarcerate an individual for 40 years. The average cost of a capital trial in Florida is $3.2 million. (same source as above)

"Various state governments estimate that a single death penalty case from arrest to execution ranges from $1 million up to $7 million. Cases resulting in life imprisonment average around $500,000 each, including incarceration cost." (In accord, here.)

More from Death Penalty Focus:

"A 1993 California study argues that each death penalty case costs at least $1.25 million more than a regular murder case and a sentence of life without possibility of. Families of murder victims undergo severe trauma and loss which no one should minimize. However, executions do not help these people heal their wounds nor do they end their pain; the extended process prior to executions prolongs the agony of the family. Families of murder victims would benefit far more if the funds now being used for the costly process of executions were diverted to the provision of counseling and other assistance."

"There is a better alternative. California judges have the option of sentencing convicted capital murderers to life in prison without the possibility of. There are currently over 1,700 people in California who have received this alternative sentence which includes no appeals process. According to the Governor's Office, only one person sentenced to life without has been released since the state provided for this option in 1977, and this occurred because he was able to prove his innocence."

We don't know how much Mr. Westerfield's design firm is worth, but he was declared indigent before his trial and his attorneys' and expert witness fees and defense costs from that point forward have been borne by the state. By the time the appeals are through, appeals not brought for delay but which are automatic pursuant to statute, well over a million dollars will have been spent. We would much prefer Mr. Westerfield, if he loses his appeals, to spend the rest of his life in prison, with the money saved on the death penalty prosecution and defense going to the Van Dams and family members of other murdered victims.

Here are some of our prior posts on the Westerfield case.

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