The Cost of Feeling Good About a Death Sentence

The LA Times has an editorial on the cost to taxpayers of the Scott Peterson verdict, that includes information on the millions the state will spend because he was sentenced to death instead of life.

Notwithstanding the whooping cheers from the Redwood City crowd at the news of his death sentence, Scott Peterson is unlikely to die by lethal injection soon, if ever. Meanwhile, Monday's feel-good moment will cost Californians millions more than the price of locking Peterson away for life with no possibility of parole.

Peterson's death sentence means this perverse reality show will probably play on for many and costly years longer.

Start with his single cell at San Quentin and the two guards who, under the policy for death row prisoners, must escort him every time he leaves it. Add in fees for the lawyers who must be appointed to prepare for the California Supreme Court's mandatory review of his sentence, an appeal designed to keep those innocent or unfairly convicted from being executed. Since 1978, when the death penalty again became an option, California has executed just 10 murderers. Another execution is scheduled for January.

Peterson joins 641 condemned men and women — more than in any other state — who are still on this glacial conveyor belt to the death chamber. It's a ride that, according to one estimate, costs taxpayers $90 million annually more than incarcerating them for life would. Now why, exactly, did California reinstate capital punishment?

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    Update on costs (none / 0) (#1)
    by A Voice of Sanity on Sat Jul 19, 2008 at 03:37:40 PM EST
    The state has admitted that it spent 20,000 hours of police time on this case (10 officers for one year in effect). And this while also admitting that, "Laci Peterson sightings were not a priority". Further, they have also disclosed that the total cost up to sentencing was $11 million. No doubt it will be much higher by the time he is released and compensated.