This Chart Shows How Insanely Expensive Death Penalty Cases Are

When the American legal system decides to pursue a capital offence, tax payers can suffer — to the tune of about $US1 million. 

A new study from Seattle University analysed 147 aggravated first-degree murder cases since 1997 in Washington State, separating the data into two categories: when prosecutors file a death notice and when they don’t.

On average, a single death penalty case cost $US3.07 million while a non-capital case cost an average of $US2.01 million, leaving a difference of about $US1.06 million. Adjusted for inflation in 2015, that means prosecutors seeking the death penalty cost Americans another $US1.15 million, making these cases 1.4 to 1.5 times more expensive. 

The chart below, from the study, breaks down the money spent: 

The most notable increases occur in defence fees and court costs. While the post-conviction incarceration costs are higher for non-death penalty cases, they don’t differ that greatly. The punishment for first-degree murder can be any number of years, including life in prison.

We first saw this story in the Seattle Times.

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