Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nebraska's (Goss) Death Penalty Cost Study: How Bad?

Ernie Goss' Nebraska Death Penalty Cost Study: How Bad Is It?
Dudley Sharp

Anti death penalty folks never cease to amaze.

How bad is Retain a Just Nebraska's (Retain) death penalty cost study?

The study's primary author, Ernie Goss, states:

"As I indicated in the (Nebraska cost) study (1), due to the small sample size (n=19), the margin of error was too large produce reliable results on the annual costs of the death penalty." (Goss email -  , RE: More Clarification: The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State of Neb, dated 8/18/2016 5:15:12 P.M. Central Daylight Time)

Did anyone see that unreliable indication in Goss' study or in his news conferences?

Retain spent $16,000 on a study found unreliable by the study's primary author. 

No surprise.

There are near countless variables, other than the presence or absence of the death penalty, which could have caused the cost differences between and within the states.  Death row inmates make up 0.16% of all state prisoners.

Of course Goss' results are unreliable.

But, it gets even worse for Goss and Retain.

1) Yes, No?

Goss presented a number of problematic cost studies from other states (2), which Goss stated were 1) essential to the cost calculations, then that 2)  they had not even been used for the cost calculations, then that 3) he didn't even fact check (vet) those cost studies then that 4) the study involved "sorting (those cost studies) conclusions based on the methodology used, and identifying the data that are suitable for analysis."

What a mess.

If Goss depended on the, also, unreliable cost studies from other states, to establish Nebraska's death penalty cost (as he said he did), it must be unreliable, as Goss confirms, and has zero relevance to Nebraska.

If Goss didn't depend on the, also, unreliable cost studies from other states (as he said he didn't), why would he include them?

Goss states: "As I said , the other studies quoted in my study had nothing to do with my estimated annual cost of $14.6 million." " I used ONLY U.S. Census Data to perform my estimates."  (Goss email -  Subj: RE: More Clarification: The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the Stat..., 8/19/2016 2:22:32 P.M. Central Daylight Time)

In fact, the Goss study says the exact opposite:

"Based on other studies examining the cost of a DP prosecution versus a LWOP prosecution: • Each DP prosecution cost the Nebraska taxpayer almost $1.5 million above and beyond the cost of an LWOP prosecution. - $740.1 thousand of post-conviction costs over the life of the prisoner. - $619.4 thousand of maximum security costs over the life of the prisoner. - $134.0 thousand of in-kind payments, or opportunity costs, over the life of the prisoner. ((1) p 3)

Goss is saying that the other cost studies, which he admits he did not fact check, were the exact studies that made up  the entire death penalty excess cost claims by Goss, in total contradiction to his email.

Then this: "The present study brings the results of nearly all the relevant studies conducted in the United States together to determine the cost of the DP in Nebraska." ((1) p 26, 27)

Goss tells us that "all the relevant studies conducted in the United States" were used "to determine the cost of the DP in Nebraska."

Which Goss contradicts, again,  with this:

"As I (Goss) said , the other studies quoted in my study had nothing to do with my estimated annual cost of $14.6 million."  "I (Goss) used ONLY U.S. Census Data to perform my estimates." (Goss email,  RE: More Clarification: The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the Stat..., 8/19/2016 2:22:32 P.M. Central Daylight Time)

Got that?

Goss continues: "In order to undertake a meta-analysis, a systematic review was conducted to select and review all studies relevant to the subject area, sorting their conclusions based on the methodology used, and identifying the data that are suitable for analysis." ( (1) p 26)

Just more contradictions:

Goss: "I quoted the findings from other studies (but did not rely on them)."  (Goss email -  RE: More Clarification: The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State...8/19/2016 1:03:16 P.M. Central Daylight Time)

In total contradiction to Goss' study. 

Could Goss contradict himself, anymore?

As Goss quotes:

“Reviewers often cite the conclusions of previous reviews without examining those reviews critically,” (Rudner et. al., 2002). ( (1) p26).

Just as Goss states he fact checked none of the studies he presented and/or relied upon: 

"To think that I (Goss) would fact check the findings from a peer-reviewed  published article indicates a lack of understanding about the peer review process." (Goss email -  RE: More Clarification: The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State..., Sent: 8/19/2016 1:03:16 P.M. Central Daylight Time)

Just to think that Goss might lower himself to fact checking (vetting)! Goss didn't fact check (vet) them, but fully relied upon them  . . . or not.

Then there is this: 2) Goss "allegedly" used a quote from Kent Scheidegger -  Goss' "quotation" of Scheidegger was the factual opposite of what Scheidegger actually stated.(3). Scheidegger, actually, found that plea bargains, made possible by the presense of the death penalty, do save money for the states.  . . . 

and Goss' study just gets worse - another mess for Retain.

1) The Economic Impact of the Death Penalty on the State of Nebraska: A Taxpayer Burden?, Produced for: Retain A Just Nebraska, August 15, 2016, Goss & Associates Economic Solutions, Ernest Goss, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Scott Strain, M.S., Senior Research Economist, Jackson Blalock, Research Assistant

2) Compare these to the corresponding studies used by Goss

Saving Costs with The Death Penalty 

3) Author: Goss told “Bald-Faced Lie” on the Cost of the Death Penalty*AUGUST 19, 2016, 


A Bald-Faced Lie on the Cost of the Death Penalty v. LWOP, Kent Scheidegger, Crime and Consequences Blog, August 18, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Judge Michael Luttig's victim impact statement

Judge Michael Luttig's victim impact statement
Upon the sentencing of the two men who murdered his beloved father in front of his mother.
May it please the Court.
It is one of life's ironies that I appear before the Court for the reason that I do. But I do so to represent my dad -- who is not here -- and his wife, and daughters. His family, my family.
More than anything else, I do this to honor him, because if the roles were reversed, he would be standing here today. Of this I am certain.
I also owe this to the other victims of violent crime who either stand silently by, or who speak and are not heard. I owe it to the public. I owe it, as well, to Donald and Cedric Coleman, who may yet not understand the magnitude of the losses they inflicted on the night of April 19.
Words seem trite in describing what follows when your husband is murdered in your presence, when your father is stripped from your life. The horror, the agony, the emptiness, the despair, the chaos, the confusion, the sense -- perhaps temporary, but perhaps not -- that one's life no longer has any purpose, the doubt, the hopelessness.
There are no words that can possibly describe it, and all it entails. But being the victim of a violent crime such as this is at least these things. Exactly these things in my family's case; the equivalent of these things in the countless other cases.
While it is happening and in the seconds and the minutes thereafter . . .'s the sheer horror of half-clothed people with guns storming up your driveway toward you in the dark of night, when you are totally defenseless's what must be the terrifying realization that you are first about to be, and then actually being, murdered
.... it's perhaps seeing in your last moment what in your mind you know was the murder of your wife
.... it's crawling on the floor of your own garage in the grease and filth, pretending you're dead, so that you won't be shot through the head by the person who just murdered your husband
.... it's realizing your husband has been gunned down in your driveway on your return from the final class you needed to complete your education -- an education that had been the goal of both of you since the day you were married
.... it's knowing that the reason that your husband was with you -- indeed, the reason that you were in the car that night at all -- is that his Christmas gift to you the previous year was the promise that you could take the class and that he would take you to and from, so that nothing would happen to you
.... it's mercilessly punishing yourself over whether you could have done something, anything at all, to have stopped the killing.
Moments later, across a continent . . . 

.... it's being frightened out of your mind in the middle of the night by a frantic banging on your door -- calling the police, then canceling the call -- and then answering the door. Your body goes limp as you see one of your best friends standing in the doorway. No words need even be spoken. For you know that the worst in life has happened. Then, he tells you: "Your mom just called. Father was murdered in the driveway of your home."
.... it's realizing that, at that very moment, the man you have worshipped all your life is lying on his back in your driveway with two bullets through his head.Across the globe. .
.... it's your husband taking the emergency international call, pulling down the receiver, fumbling for the words, as he starts to deliver the news. "This is the hardest thing I will ever have to tell you," he begins. Then, it is the calls home, or at least to what used to be home, first one, then the other. In eerie, stunned calmness, you hear your mother utter the feared confirmation: "Yes, your dad was just murdered. You better come home." Now you believe.
Within hours . . .
.... it's arriving home to television cameras in your front yard, to see your house cordoned off by police lines; police conducting ballistics and forensics tests, and studying the place in the driveway where your father had finally fallen dead -- all as if it were a set from a television production
.... it's going down to the store where your dad had always shopped for clothes, to buy a shirt, a tie that will match his suit, and a package of three sets of underwear (you can only buy them in sets of three) so your dad will look nice when he is buried
.... it's being called by the funeral home and told that it recommends that the casket be closed and that perhaps your mom, sister, and wife should not see the body -- and you know why, without even asking
.... it's walking into the viewing room at the funeral home and having your sister cry out that that just can't be him, it just can't be.
In the days that follow . . .
.... it's living in a hotel in your own hometown, blocks away from where you have lived your whole life, because you just can't bear to go back
.... it's packing up the family home, item by item, memory by memory, as if all of the lives that were there only hours before are no more
.... it's reading the letters from you, your sister, and your wife, that your dad secreted away in his most private places, unbeknownst to you, realizing that the ones he invariably saved were the ones that just said "thanks" or "I love you." And really understanding for the first time that that truly was all that he ever needed to hear or to receive in return, just as he always told you
.... it's carefully folding each or your husband's shirts, as you have always done, so that they will be neat when they are given away
.... it's watching your mother do this, in your own mind begging her to stop
.... it's cleaning out your dad's sock drawer, his underwear drawer, his ties
.... it's packing up your dad's office for him, from the family picture to the last pen and pencil
.... it's reading the brochures in his top drawer about the fishing trip you and he were to take in two months -- the trip that your mother had asked you to go on because it meant so much to your dad.
In the weeks thereafter . . .
.... it's living in absolute terror, not knowing who had murdered your husband and tried to murder you, but realizing that often such people come back to complete the deed, and wondering if they would return this time
.... it's furiously writing down the license number of every Ford Probe for no reason other than it was a Ford Probe, hoping that through serendipity, it might be, and sometimes fearing, that that is exactly what might happen
.... it's never spending another night in your own home because the pain is too great and the memories too fresh
.... it's all day every day, and all night, racking your brain to the point of literal exhaustion over who possibly could have done this. It's questioningly looking in the corners of every relationship, to the point that, at times, you are almost ashamed of yourself. Yet you have no choice but to continue, because, as they say, it could be anyone
.... it's thinking the unthinkable, that perhaps the act was in retaliation for something you had done in your job. You ask yourself, "If it was, should I just walk away?"
.... it's watching the re-enactment of your dad's, your husband's murder on television, day and night, and every time you pick up the newspaper
.... it's reading the "wanted" poster for the people who murdered him, while checking out at the grocery store
.... it's telling your family night after night that it will be all right, when you don't believe it yourself.
Then they are finally found, and . . .
.... it's collapsing on the kitchen floor when you are told -- not from relief, but from the ultimate despair in learning that your husband was indeed killed for nothing but a car, and in an act so random as to defy comprehension
.... it's watching your mother collapse on the floor when she hears this news and knowing that she will not just have to relive the fateful night in her own mind, now she will have to relive it in public courtrooms, over and over again, for months on end.In the months that follow. .
.... it's putting the family home up for sale and being told that everyone thinks it is beautiful, but they just don't think they could live there, because a murder took place in the driveway
.... it's the humiliation of being told by the credit card companies, after they closed your husband's accounts because of his death, that they are unable to extend you credit because you are not currently employed
.... it's receiving an anonymous call that begins, "I just learned of the brutal carjacking and murder of your father," and that ends by saying. "I only wish your mother had been raped and murdered, too."
.... it's the crushing anxiety of awaiting the trauma and uncertainties of public trials.The day arrives, and. .
.... it's listening, for the first time, to the tape of your mother's 911 call to report that her husband, your father, had been murdered. Hearing the terror in her voice. Catching yourself before you pass out from the shock of knowing that, through that tape, you are present at the very moment it all happened
.... it's hearing the autopsy report on how the bullets entered your father's skull, penetrated and exited his brain, and went through his shoulder and arm
.... it's listening to testimony as to how long he might have been conscious, and thus aware of what was happening -- not just to him but to the woman that he had always said he would give his life for
.... it's looking at the photographs of your dad lying in the driveway in a pool of blood, as they are projected on a large screen before your friends and family, and before what might as well be the whole world
.... it's having to ask your son what the expression was on your husband's face
.... it's listening to a confession in which the person says that he just thought your dad was "playing possum."
.... it's listening to your own mother, a lady of ultimate grace, testify publicly as to how she crawled under the car, in the grease and the filth, to avoid being murdered
.... it's hearing her say that the only thing she could think of was what it was going to be like to be shot through the back of the head
.... it's watching her face as she relives that night, time and again.
As the trauma of the trial subsides . . .
.... it's getting down on your hands and knees and straightening your dad's new grave marker and packing the fresh dirt around it, so that it will be perfect, as he always insisted that things be for you
.... it's sitting across from each other at Thanksgiving dinner, each knowing that there is but one thing on the other's mind, yet pretending otherwise for their sake
.... it's telling your wife that the meat was great, when you could barely keep it down and hardly wait to finish
.... it's trying to pick out a Christmas gift for your mother that your dad would have picked out for her
.... it's sitting beside your father's grave into the night in 30-degree weather, so that he won't be alone on the first Christmas
.... it's putting up, by yourself, the basketball goal that you got last Christmas so that you and your dad could relive memories as you passed the years together
.... it's finishing by yourself all of the projects that you have not an idea how to do, and that your dad had said, "Save for the summer and we'll do them together. I'll show you how."
.... it's hearing your 2-year-old daughter ask for "Pawpaw" and seeing your wife choke back the tears and tell her, "He's gone now, he's in heaven."... it's having the clothes your dad was most proud of altered, so you can wear them in his honor
.... it's wondering whether your wearing the clothes will be too painful for your mother.
In the larger sense . . .

.... it's shaking every time you drive into a darkened driveway
.... it's feeling your body get rigid every time that you drive into a garage
.... it's being nervous every time you walk to your car, even in the open daylight
.... it's being scared to answer any phone call or any knock at the door at night (or, for that matter, during the day) because another messenger may be calling.
Finally, it's the long-term effects . . .
.... it's the inexplicable sense of embarrassment when you tell someone that your husband or your father was murdered -- almost a sense of guilt over injecting ugliness into their lives
.... it's going out to dinner alone, knowing that you will be going out alone the rest of your life
.... it's that feeling -- wrong, but inevitable -- that you will always be the fifth wheel
.... it's living the rest of your life with the fact that your husband, your father, suffered one of the most horrifying deaths possible
.... it's never knowing, yet fearing that you know all too well, what those final moments must have been like
.... it's constantly visualizing yourself in his place that night, moment by excruciating moment
.... it's realizing that you will never even get the chance to repay your dad for making your dreams come true
.... it's living with the uncomfortable irony that he lived just long enough to see to it that your dreams came true, but that his never will
.... it's knowing you never had, and will never have, that one last time to say thanks for giving me, first, life itself, and then, all that it holds.
And . . .

.... it's knowing that this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come
.... The haunting images
.... The emptiness
.... The loneliness
.... The directionlessness
.... The sickening sense that it all ended some time ago, and that you are but biding time.
Of course, for my mother, my sister, my wife and I, the sun will come up again, but it will never come up again for the real victim of this crime. Not only will he never see what he worked a lifetime for, and was finally within reach of obtaining. That would be tragedy enough. But, even worse, he died knowing that the only thing that ever could have ruined his life had come to pass -- that his wife and his family might have to suffer the kind of pain that is now ours -- and he was helpless to prevent it even as he saw its inevitability.
We live by law in this county so that, ideally, no one will ever have to know what it is like to be a victim of such violent crime. If I had any wish, any wish in the world, it would be that no one ever again would have to go through what my mother and my father experienced on the night of April 19, what my family has endured since and must carry with us the rest of our lives.
Crimes such as that committed against my family are intolerable in any society that calls itself not only free, but civilized. The law recognizes as much, and it provides for punishment that will ensure at least that others will not suffer again at the same hands, even if it does not prevent recurrence at the hands of others. On behalf of my dad, and on behalf of my mother and family, I respectfully request that these who committed this brutal crime receive the full punishment that the law provides.
Three people were needed to complete this crime. Each of the three was as instrumental to its success as the other. There were no passive bystanders among the gang that executed my dad.
Thank you, Your Honor.
Napoleon Beazly was executed May 28, 2002, for being the triggerman in this murder, attempted murder and carjacking
This victim impact statement can be found throughout the web, inclusive of here:


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

95% Death Penalty Support by Capital Murder Survivors

95% Death Penalty Support by Loved Ones of Capital Murder Victims
Dudley Sharp

(March 2015) Poll by Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate found:

90% of victims' family members support the death penalty. 94% said the imposed death sentence should be carried out. (1)

Any state could, easily, do the same poll. I hope they do.

I don't know if this was a poll of all crime victims and their survivors or only death penalty eligible cases, which would, likely, produce the highest support. I am inquiring.

Oklahoma City Bombing case and the 9/11 terrorism attacks:

 Oklahoma City Bombing case:

I am aware of 4 murder victim survivors who opposed Timothy McVeigh's execution.

That is 4 out of 1680 (10 times 168 murder victims) (2), or 0.2% opposed to execution.

Way under 5%, which would require 84 death penalty opponents, using my method (2).

9/11 terrorism attacks:

I am aware of 3 of the nearly 30,000 9/11 murder victim's loved ones who opposed either Bin Laden's death or those killed in drone strikes who were connected to 9/11 or who have voiced any opposition to a death penalty for any other 9/11 conspirators.

That is 0.01% opposed.

5% would be 1500.  I have only found 3.


Sadly, these two mass murders were so huge, it presented this opportunity to see what developed with a media that is always interested to find and publicize murder victim survivors who oppose the death penalty, specifically, in death penalty eligible cases.

When there are death penalty opponents whose loved ones were murdered in highly publicized cases,  the media jumps all over them.

I do my own google search for them, periodically, as well as inquire within the crime victim community.

When I get to 84 and 1500, respectively, I will re calculate. Likely, that will not be necessary.

1)"Widow of slain policeman adamant in support of death penalty',, December 13, 2015

2) I multiplied every murder victim times 10 to arrive at the number of close loved ones per murder victim.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Libertarians & The Death Penalty

Libertarian: “Death Penalty Essential for Social Justice”
Dudley Sharp

The Libertarian Party has, recently, voted, overwhelmingly, to oppose the death penalty, a decision based upon the inaccuracies and irrationality of the anti death penalty movement.

quotes by Murray N. Rothbard - the Godfather of Libertarianism


Walter E. Block, PhD,  well known libertarian, Austrian Economist and The Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans  and Prof. Roy Whitehead


"What the murderer has done, essentially, to his victim is, in effect, steal his life away." " . . . the murderer’s life is forfeit now, for justice is timeless." (1)

" . . . an  individual's most important and primary  property right consists of his ownership over his own person. To interfere with that right is to engage in an illicit taking . . .  in effect murder is the theft of a life . . ." (2).

" . . .the murderer loses precisely the right of which he has deprived another human being: the right to have one's life preserved from the violence of another person. The murderer therefore deserves to be killed in return." (3)

" . . . the instincts of the public are correct on this issue: namely, that the punishment should fit the crime; i.e., that punishment should be proportional to the crime involved. The theoretical justification for this is that an aggressor loses his rights to the extent that he has violated the rights of another human being." (3)

Victim survivors show 95% death penalty support. When the question to the public is "Do you support the death penalty for murder?" and the responses are -  sometimes - always -  or never - death penalty support is 80% or above (8).

"The libertarian takes his stand for individual rights not merely on the basis of social consequences, but more emphatically on the justice that is due to every individual." (3)

" . . . the libertarian theory of punishment is  one of compensation for the victim;  that is, the perpetrator is punished by forcing him to  compensate  the injured party to the extent of the rights violation perpetrated upon him." "The reason for this is that libertarianism is predicated on an attempt to attain justice . . . " (4)

" . . . while it is impossible to place the victim back on the plane of life he was following  before the outrage,  justice  consists of at least attempting to do so as far as possible." (5)

"Each libertarian has his own foundation - or none - for private property and non-aggression. What we have in common are just these two axiom." (6) "If (libertarianism) has any one principle, it is that no one should initiate force against non-aggressors." (6)

Murder takes away all your property - your self  - and violates the second of the two primary axioms - the murderer violates non-aggression in the worst form - by committing murder.

Murder is, therefore, the greatest violation of libertarianism, with execution representing  justice for that violation.'

" . . . (killling) is not impermissible in self-defense, nor is it to kill those who no longer have entitlement to their own lives. Let the message go out, loud and clear: If you murder, you give up the right to your own life." (1)

"It is a crime and a disgrace that such criminals now enjoy air conditioning, television, exercise rooms, etc. They owe a debt to their victims’ heirs, who are now, to add insult to injury, forced to pay again, through taxes, to maintain these miscreants in a relatively luxurious life, compared to what they richly deserve." (1)

See "The Death of Punishment", by Robert Blecker, 2014


"Another common liberal complaint is that the death penalty does not deter murder from being committed. While it is impossible to prove the degree of deterrence, it seems indisputable that some murders would be deterred by the death penalty. Sometimes the liberal argument comes perilously close to maintaining that no punishment deters any crime — a manifestly absurd view that could easily be tested by removing all legal penalties for nonpayment of income tax and seeing if there is any reduction in the taxes paid."

(Wanna bet?)" (3)

"If the prospect of even a small probability that the death penalty might be imposed for even relatively minor crimes does not put a severe dent in criminal behavior, then nothing will." (7).

"   . economists who ought to know better have found no statistically significant correlation between reducing the murder rate and being or becoming a death penalty state . . . that is only because murderers, like most of the rest of us, pay attention not to dead letter laws, but to actual penalties." (1)

"It is fallacious to regard murderers as irrational: very few conduct their business in police stations." (1)

" When multiple regressions are run on murder rates, not against death penalty status, but with regard to actual executions, the evidence is consistent with the notion that such punishments reduce these crimes. This is entirely compatible with the economic principle of downward sloping demand: the higher the price, the less people wish to access. This holds for all human endeavors: cars, pizza, and, yes, murder too." (1)

There are now 28 US studies finding for death penalty deterrence, since 1997. The studies finding for deterrence are considerably stronger than the criticisms of them. (9)

"Nor is it possible not to regard murder as a stiffer penalty than life in prison.Were this not so, we would scarcely find the denizens of death row trying desperately to stave off, or better yet overturn, their executions." (1) 


"As for the costliness of executions, this is entirely a function of present judicial functioning, which can be changed with the stroke of a pen." (1)

Responsibly managed death penalty systems should be less expensive or no more than for life without parole, as detailed (10).

Virginia has executed 70% of her death row murderers since 1976, that being 111 murderers executed within 7 years of full appeals, with not even a hint of an innocent executed. Virginia's last execution took place on 10/1/2015, after 5 years of full appeals (10).


1) “Death Penalty Essential for Social Justice”, Block, Walter E., The Maroon, 10/10/03, Loyola University (New Orleans)

2) p, 245,  Whitehead, Roy and Walter E. Block. 2003. “Taking the assets of the criminal to compensate victims of violence: a legal and philosophical approach,” Wayne State University Law School Journal of Law in Society Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall, 2003, pp.229-254;  (death penalty justified)

3) The Libertarian Position on Capital Punishment, Murray N. Rothbard, Libertarian Review, June 1978

This article originally appeared as "The Plumb Line: The Capital Punishment Question" in the Libertarian Review, Vol. 7, No. 5 (June 1978), pp. 13–14.

Rothbard's Profile

4) p 243, ibid footnote 2

5) p 244, ibid, footnote 2

6) "Libertarianism vs Objectivism; A Response to Peter  Schwartz", Walter Block,   pg 41, 42, Reason Papers Vol. 26 39, Loyola University, New Orleans

7)  p  248, ibid footnote 2

8) 86% Death Penalty Support: Highest Ever - April 2013
World Support Remains High
95% of Murder Victim's Family Members Support Death Penalty

9) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

Friday, March 04, 2016

Death Penalty Costs: Utah

Problems: Utah Death Penalty Cost Study
Dudley Sharp, 3/4/2016

To: Governor Gary Herbert and staff
Utah House, Senate and staff
Attorney General Sean Reyes and staff
Utah Prosecution Council
Utah Sheriffs' Association

Media throughout Utah

Re: Problems: Utah Death Penalty Cost Study

From: Dudley Sharp

Utah's death penalty cost study (1) has some problems.

1) No Evaluation of Actual LWOP or Death Penalty Costs

The study is based upon calculating the differences in costs between the death penalty and life without parole, WITHOUT ESTABLISHING the specific costs of either the death penalty or of life without parole ("LWOP", being the relevant capital murder cases).

The study did this by, allegedly, looking at all the things that Utah has to do in a death penalty case and in a LWOP case and calculating ONLY the costs of the, alleged,  differences between the two, wherein this study found $1.6 million more costs in a death penalty case.

Because of errors in methodology, we know this to be, wildly, inaccurate.

2) How Problematic

This process had several identifiable problems:

a) Gary Syphus, the fiscal analyst who did the death penalty vs LWOP cost study, stated: "To be clear I did not estimate LWOP costs" (2).

We are precluded from fact checking a detailed look at both death penalty and LWOP costs, which are, totally, absent from the study, thereby lowering any confidence in its conclusions;

b) confidence, further lowered, because the study excluded 1) the increased costs of medical and geriatric care,  for LWOP and  2) possibly excluded an increase of costs of higher security for LWOP capital murderers; 3) excluded the increased costs of the additional appellate LWOP costs; and 4) the cost savings of plea bargains to LWOP, only possible with the death penalty option and a cost credit which is applied to the death penalty side of the ledger and which can be a huge number, dramatically lowering death penalty costs, depending upon the number of LWOP pleas.

This study provides zero information for all of those calculations, wrongly excludes them, because none were looked at, establishing  many errors, undermining any confidence in the study.


According to Syphus, the "study" used the average incarceration costs per year for THE ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION and applied those to LWOP (2).

Such underestimates LWOP costs.

a) Medical Costs

LWOP murderers will die in prison and will have a higher average costs for medical care, because, as per Syphus, the average Utah LWOP inmate will live to 76, which incurs geriatric care costs, WHICH Syphus averaged out over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, instead of applying it to LWOP, only (2).

As an example, the study averages costs inclusive of, say, a 20 year old, healthy inmate who gets a 1 year prison sentence for assault and has $0 medical costs per year and an 85 year old inmate, on kidney dialysis, who received a LWOP sentence for capital murder, at age 45, with medical costs at $348,000 per year.

This methodology destroys any confidence in the study and results in, totally, unreliable numbers, as is conceded.

In 2012, in Utah Dept. of Corrections (UDC) found that:

"About 9 percent of the state's total prison population is older than 55. (UDC) estimates health care costs of those inmates are 12 times more expensive than those of younger inmates." (3)

Syphus averaged out those 12 times more expensive geriatric LWOP cases, over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, lowering the real, true geriatric LWOP medical costs and destroying any confidence in the studies findings, as all reality was destroyed, as conceded.

Based upon Syphus' average expected age of 76, the average LWOP prisoner will have about 26 years of geriatric care  which for prisoners starts at ages 50- 55, and, in Utah, averages about additional $22,000 per year (4), or $572,000 per inmate for those additional 26 years, costs which Syphus nullified by averaging the costs over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION.

Added to that will be 5 more years of increased medical care, maybe an additional $11,000 or so per LWOP prisoner/yr., $55,000, total, to add up to the 31 years Syphus calculated as the additional years for LWOP over a death row inmate, or an estimated $627,000 total, more per LWOP inmate (4), which was excluded in the study (4).

Because of the way Syphus calculated the study, it is possible that this error could be double, or $1.254 million, as the $627,000 was excluded from the baseline of LWOP, as would apply to all other cost issues, to follow.

Utah's medical/geriatric prisoner costs are at a low level compared to many other states, as detailed (4).

For example, the renal failure unit at the Federal Medical Center (Devens)  costs $348,000/PER YEAR/PER INMATE for their 115 aging inmates, at $4 million per year for that unit, EXCLUDING MEDICATION COSTS (5).

b)  Higher security costs

As a rule, LWOP capital murderers will be in higher security than general population inmates, and such will be more costly. 

However, the spokesperson for UDC, unofficially, says that increased security in Utah does not cost more.

Such is an astounding management of costs, if accurate.

For example, one of California's maximum security units costs $172,000/PER YEAR/PER INMATE (6).

As per Syphus, Utah's average prisoner cost is about $27,000/yr/inmate (2).

It appears that Utah does a better job at controlling incarceration costs than most states. But we will still have to wait on UDC's specific cost statement, which I have been waiting on since 3/1/16 and, as of 6/2/16, have not received.

c) Inaccurate Appellate Costs

Syphus states that the legal appeals costs are within the average for the incarceration costs for the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, as with medical costs, which indicates a highly inaccurate and strange way to arrive at very wrong numbers for LWOP costs (2).

Syphus claims that appellate costs are part of the incarceration cost average (2), which makes no sense, further lowering our confidence and, if true, indicates the same problem of averaging over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION and, again, dramatically,  lowering LWOP appellate costs.

For example, one would be averaging appellate costs of all inmates who plea bargained and have $0 appellate costs with those LWOP capital murderers who did not plea and have years of appeals, again, an averaging which, vastly, underestimates LWOP appellate costs, again, a lost cause for confidence.


Plea bargains to LWOP

With no detailed pre trial, trial and appeals costs of the LWOP cases, there is no way to calculate the actual cost credit of a LWOP plea, a cost credit only possible with the death penalty option and a plea which can create significant cost savings, which shows as a cost credit to the death penalty and which was not calculated in this study.  further destroying any confidence in the study.

No death penalty = no plea to LWOP.

Depending upon 1) how many LWOP cases are the result of a plea; 2) the cost savings of those pleas and 3) how many death row cases a state has, there is a scenario whereby the plea cost savings eradicate any alleged excessive costs of the death penalty, if there are any, and/or which would make the death penalty less costly than LWOP.

But, we are left guessing, as the study leaves out all of those important details.


The death penalty debate is rife with horribly inaccurate and/or misleading death penalty costs studies, some intentionally and obviously fraudulent (6), and Utah's is, not unexpectedly, just another example of that major problem.

The many problems with Utah's study cannot be clarified and/or corrected without a detailed review of both death penalty and LWOP costs, wherein, LWOP costs will rise, possibly dramatically, just as death penalty costs will go down, also possibly,  dramatically.

NOTE: These study problems are not the fault of Syphus, but of the parameters given to him by the authority requesting the study. It is unfortunate he didn't detail the problems of the study and that I had to do so.


1) The easy route:

Ask all relevant entities how many people they will lay off with death penalty repeal. Likely, none, meaning death penalty repeal will have no known budgetary effect, nullifying the need for a specific, detailed cost review.

2) Detailed route:

A complete, detailed, specific  study of all financial and cost aspects of both death penalty and LWOP cases, inclusive of only capital murderers in the LWOP category.

Here is a suggested protocol for such a study (7).


I have been told that Utah averages about 20 years of appeals, prior to execution.

That is not a death penalty problem. That is a management problem.

The average time for appeals, prior to execution, is 11 years, nationally, and 7 years, in Virginia.

Virginia has executed 111 murderers, since 1976, within an average of 7 years of full appeals. Their last execution, 10/1/2015, occurred after 5 years of full appeals (see Virginia within footnote 6).

If Virginia can do it, Utah can.

As a rule, there is no legal or rational reason for appeals to take longer than 6-10 years, on average, that being 2-3.3 years , each, at the state supreme court, federal district court and federal circuit court levels. Cases accepted by SCOTUS are rare.

Utah needs to fix her mismanagement problem.

Sincerely, Dudley Sharp

1) see page 2 of document, titled "Incremental Impact for One Death Penalty Offender to Execution -  State and Local,
sent to me by Gary Syphus, Utah Fiscal Analyst, on 2/10/16

2) From email correspondence between myself and Gary Syphus, 2/15/16

3) "Utah one of 4 states whose inmate health care costs doubled",  Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune, October 29, 2013

4)  My cost numbers are based upon UDC published material in footnotes 3 and 4 and are, most likely, very close to the real numbers.

I have estimated $22,000/yr for geriatric LWOP prisoners (10% of prisoners) and a $1800/yr average for all those younger than geriatric (90% of prisoners), for an average cost of about $3700/yr/inmate, as per UDC (link, hereto) and an approximate 12 times greater cost for geriatric inmates than for the younger prisoners, also as per UDC in (3).

See Health Care Costs, Costs in Comparisons, UDC,

5) "The Painful Price of Aging Prisons", Washington Post, May 2, 2015

6) See Death Penalty Costs: California within
Saving Costs with The Death Penalty

7) Death Penalty Costs vs Life Without Parole Costs: Study Protocol