The death penalty costs studies are either improperly analyzed or blatant deceptions, seemingly, without exception.
I encourage everyone to fact check them, something that none in the media has ever done, instead, just passing along the standard anti death penalty line, as is so common with other topics in this debate.
Could all jurisdictions save money by using the death penalty, as opposed to life without parole?
The Virginia Example
Virginia executes within 7.1 years of sentencing, on average, and has executed 72% of those so sentenced (108 out of 149), within the modern death penalty era, post Gregg v Georgia (1976) (1).
All states could do that, or similar, and save money over LWOP.
Contrary to consistent urban legend, an academic review, by a neutral academic, found that the verifiable costs in the oft quoted "Texas cost study" actually found the death penalty was cheaper than a life sentence (2).
I have told the Dallas Morning News (DMN), for many years, to stop using their totally inaccurate cost review. They still use it. DMN found that it costs $2.3 million per average death penalty case (for 5 cases), more than 3 times more expensive than a $750,000 life sentence. (C. Hoppe, "Executions Cost Texas Millions," The Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992, 1A)
Problem is that they looked at the pre trial, trial, incarceration and appellate costs of the death penalty, but only the incarceration costs of life WITH PAROLE ELIGIBILITY.
That study looked a 5 death row cases. Texas has had over 1000 since 1973.
Contrary to consistent misinformation, the study actually finds that LWOP is more expensive that the death penalty (3).
A perfect example of how bad things are in academia. This cost review has been quoted extensively, in academia, media and in anti death penalty literature. Every time I have seen it cited, it has been, blatantly, misleading and in error. Not once have I found any correction from the authors.
What happens when an average of 29 years of appeals turns into 10 years for appeals?
Florida Adjusted Total Costs
Death penalty cases $500,000
Life without parole cases $1,953, 000
This is only a review of three cases, but represents the only effort at truly evaluating individual case costs in Florida, as opposed to some nonsensical reviews.
Note that the 10 year average for apeals, prior to execution, is 40% longer than the time in Virginia.
Death Penalty Costs: California
Death Penalty Costs: Maryland
DEATH PENALTY COSTS: COLORADO
Cost, Deception & the Death Penalty: The Colorado Experience
INCREDIBLE COSTS: LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
Yes, the "study" found that death penalty cases cost 70%, or about $500,000 more, per median case cost than for the equivalent non death penalty murder case (4).
However, the foundation was this: " . . .there was nothing we could look at to verify the accuracy of any of the data assembled for this report." (page 2) (4).
"Actual cost figures for death penalty and non death penalty cases in Kansas don't exist." (page 10) (4).
On pages 29 and 31 the study discussed methods of saving money.
New Mexico & New Jersey
For anyone that paid any attention to New Jersey or New Mexico, you know that neither cost nor the truth played a role in either states abandonment of the death penalty.
New Mexico wrongly used the North Carolina cost study, above, to determine that costs in their state may be similar. Obviously, an exercise in inaccuracy. New Mexico didn't realize that cost study actually found life without parole to be more expensive (5). There was no effort in New Mexico to fact check.
New Jersey conceded they could not, accurately, evaluate costs.
1) "DEAD WRONG: NJ Death Penalty Study Commission", Dudley Sharp, 2007,
"The New Jersey Death Penalty Commission made significant errors within their findings. The evidence, contrary to the Commissions findings, was so easy to obtain that it appears either willful ignorance and/or deception guided their report."
"Death Penalty Cost Studies: Saving Costs over LWOP"
Cost Savings: The Death Penalty
(1) Path to execution swifter, more certain in Va. , FRANK GREEN, Richmond Post-Dispatch, December 4, 2011 Page: A1 Section: News Edition: Final
(2) Lethal Injection: Capital Punishment in Texas During the Modern Era, By Jonathan Roger Sorensen, Rocky LeAnn Pilgrim, 2006, U of Texas Press, p154-156
(3) "Duke (North Carolina) Death Penalty Cost Study: Let's be honest"
(4) "Performance Office Report: Costs Incurred for Death penalty Cases", A K-Goal Audit of the Department of Corrections, by the Legislative Division of Post Audit - A Report to the Legislative Post Audit Committee, December 2003
(5) "Rebuttal to Governor Richardson - Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico"
"Why did Gov. Richardson repeal the death penalty? His legacy"