Today's Ogden Standard-Examiner reports, "Lawmaker says cost of carrying out death penalty may not justify it in Utah." It's written by Loretta Park.
The cost of carrying out the death penalty may not justify its being used in Utah, one lawmaker says.
“In today’s world, the death penalty is so infrequently used that I don’t believe it is any kind of a deterrent,” said Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton.
Handy was asked by the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee to review the costs of carrying out the death penalty. He and others spoke before the committee Wednesday.
The committee has ranked the death penalty as its No. 1 policy issue to study this year. Handy said Utah’s death penalty has not been reviewed in years.
“I’m not under the illusion that we will repeal the death penalty anytime soon,” he said.
It would cost taxpayers less to have a convicted murderer go to prison without any possibility of parole than to have that person sit for 25 years on death row waiting for the appeal process to be completed before execution, Handy said.
He said he is not planning to sponsor at the next legislative session any bill seeking to repeal the death penalty. He just wants to see how much it actually costs taxpayers, and if it would be more cost-efficient to go to life without the possibility of parole as an option.
Currently, eight people are on Utah’s death row. Ronald Lafferty was convicted in 1985; 11 years later, his case was retried, and he was convicted again.
Floyd Eugene Maestas has been on death row since his 2008 conviction.
"Lawmakers want numbers on death penalty cost in Utah," is by Erin Alberty for the Salt Lake Tribune.
An execution comes with a significant price tag, Utah legislators were told in a committee discussion of the costs of Utah’s death penalty.
Utah’s ongoing death row cases — typically about 10 in any given year — are estimated to cost the state an average $690,800 over and above the projected legal costs if they were prosecuted without the death penalty, state fiscal analyst Gary Syphus reported Wednesday to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee. Capital cases also cost local governments an estimated $460,000 per year for prosecutors and public defenders.
"I’m not under any illusion the legislature or the people of Utah are ready to repeal the death penalty," said Rep. Stephen G. Handy, R-Layton, who asked for the analysis. "I want to have the discussion. I don’t see a lot of purpose for the death penalty in today’s world. When I go through the details of these horrific cases, my resolve gets a little weaker. You want to say, ‘There’s only one solution for that person.’ But I approach it from the perspective of a conservative."
The figures represent an informal estimate — likely a low one, Syphus said.
For public defenders, costs can soar in capital cases where the defendant’s mental health is in question or in cases where the defendant is not local because travel is required for investigation, said Patrick Anderson, of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association. Experts may cost a county $50,000 to $100,000. To handle capital cases, attorneys must meet special qualifications that require expensive legal coursework, and their caseloads must be shifted to allow them to provide an adequate defense.
"Capital cases were 0.0008 percent of my total caseload, but yet it was probably 10 percent of my budget," Anderson said. "That’s just talking about the trial. That’s not the appellate aspect of it."