Capital Expenditures: Financial Burden to the American Taxpayer

by Anthony Moya
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Faculty advisor: Dr. Neal McNabb

This poster is an examination of the economic costs of capital punishment in the United States.  In 2008, the average capital murder case, from to trial to execution, cost American taxpayers between $2 and $5 million, despite the fact that there is little evidence that capital punishment serves the interests of punishment (deterrence and incapacitation) better than a sentence of life without parole (LWOP).  The use of the death penalty is perhaps an unjustifiable financial burden, especially in a society that is currently still experiencing a record economic recession.  What makes the use of capital punishment so costly?  The actual execution phase of the process is very inexpensive; it is the many complimentary costs associated with the death penalty that make it so expensive to administer.  The rules put into place by the Gregg decision in 1976 to address flaws in the way the death penalty was used, informally referred to as “super due process,” have increased the costs exponentially.  Examples of these costs include the higher cost of capital murder trials, the extended appellate process, and the many hidden costs of the death penalty (e.g., 50 of the 60 death sentences handed down in New Jersey since 1983 have been reversed and no one has been executed).

This project is a detailed examination of the costs of the death penalty, a comparison of the costs of incarceration versus execution, and a look at some of the recent academic research on the costs of capital punishment.