Sham Death Penalty Is A Costly Luxury For State

James Austin, the expert who was prepared to testify at Hayes' trial, said the death penalty would increase the cost of the case by 50 percent, from $2 million to $3 million, over Hayes' lifetime. But remember, that's not one case out of 10 inmates on death row, it's one of dozens and dozens of capital cases the state must try.

New Jersey conducted a study showing a total cost of $253 million above what it would have cost to lock up convicted murderers for life — over a period of 20 years. And that state has the same number of death row inmates as Connecticut.

A study in Maryland showed an added cost of $186 million between 1978 and 1999, for 162 capital cases. Connecticut has had 240 capital cases since 1973, said Culligan, who is one of Hayes' lawyers.

And if all this spending isn't enough, consider that the death penalty itself is headed for trial in Connecticut, in a case designed to find out whether it's racially discriminatory. That case has not even been scheduled for trial yet, and, Culligan said, the outside consultant working on behalf of keeping the death penalty has billed the state $600,000 so far.

While we're waiting, it costs much more to keep inmates on death row because they're segregated at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, the state's most costly prison — not necessarily the home of lifers without parole.

In Illinois, a state that has executed 13 inmates and was in the vanguard of overturning cases based on DNA evidence, some opinion leaders have turned away from execution because of cost. We're at the point in the state budget crisis where the easy cuts have already happened, and we now need to start thinking about programs like the death penalty.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, calls the penalty "a very expensive form of life without parole."

Or, as Culligan calls it, "a luxury item in the criminal justice system."

"You could provide a lot of services to victims' families that are not being provided," Culligan added.

The death penalty, by contrast, is a money pit for a mirage of justice.

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