Today's New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, "Louisiana Legislature starts to look at death penalty costs," by Julia O'Donoghue. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
The Louisiana Legislature is looking into the cost associated with carrying out the death penalty in the state.
State Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, is heading up a new Capital Punishment Fiscal Impact Commission. The group's first meeting was Wednesday morning.
Louisiana doesn't have a well-researched estimate of how much it is spending on capital punishment trials and execution, according to Morrell. The commission's goal is to get an idea of what the overall price tag is for executions in the state.
The death penalty might be more expensive than the general public realizes. Inmates on death row are segregated from the main prison population and receive specialized care. Capital murder trials can also be much more expensive than regular murder cases.
Members of the commission include lawmakers, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement, an auditor and staff members from nonprofit organizations. The group has been broken down into three subcommittees -- prosecution expenses, defense expenses and general Department of Corrections expenses.
The subcommittees will meet approximately once per month. The overall commission will meet once per quarter, according to Morrell. The group has to conclude its work by the end of 2015.
"Study commission looking at La. death penalty," is AP coverage, via WDSU-TV.
Morrell says he's looking for ways to streamline the process for dealing with capital cases and litigation that can stretch over decades. He says the data is critical to decision-making process.
But tensions were obvious at the opening meeting of the commission, which included people who support and oppose the death penalty, along with officials from the legislative auditor's office and the corrections department.
Louisiana's last execution was in 2010, and plans for the next lethal injection have been put on hold, amid an ongoing legal dispute about the drugs that will be used.
The legislative resolution establishing the Joint Capital Punishment Fiscal Impact Commission is at the link.