The Cost of Death
When an accused murderer is willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without parole, does it make sense to insist on a death penalty trial? Can a judge accept a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence over the objections of death-seeking prosecutors? These are the questions posed by Jonathan Mills in New Haven, who has been trying to plead guilty for three years.
In their motion to be filed this week, Mills' lawyers argue that Judge [Jon] Blue "has the inherent discretionary sentencing power" to accept Mills' plea. Prosecutors' insistence on the death penalty, the motion says, "is irrelevant to the court's sentencing powers."
If Blue agrees, he could provide finality for the families of victims and murderer alike. He would also save Connecticut taxpayers money--at least $1 million, probably much more.
Connecticut has not executed a prisoner since 1960. Assuming that prosecutors are successful in their efforts to persuade jurors that death is the appropriate penalty for Mills, it may take decades for post-conviction proceedings to conclude, at a cost to taxpayers of at least $2.5 million (an estimate that the New Haven Advocate suggests may be "ridiculously low"), far more than the cost of imprisoning Mills for the rest of his life.
Is it worth it?
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