New Study on the Cost of the Death Penalty in Washington State
It costs more than one million dollars more to pursue the death penalty than not to seek it in an aggravated murder case in Washington State, according to a new study by four professors at Seattle University. The report, AN ANALYSIS OF THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF SEEKING THE DEATH PENALTY IN WASHINGTON STATE, found that the estimated average difference in total costs when the death penalty is sought is $1,058,885.
It also found that recent cases that are still pending have cost significantly more, in the $4 million range. And it found that of 24 death sentence cases that have completed review, eighteen (18) cases resulted in either the conviction and/or death sentence being reversed, and one (1) ended when the defendant committed suicide while the matter was on appeal.
The study examined 147 aggravated first-degree murder cases since 1997. Average trial level defense costs related to pursuit of the death penalty are 2.8 to 3.5 times more expensive than cases in which the death penalty is not sought.
The report was the result of seven months of research by Criminal Justice Department Professors Peter Collins and Matthew Hickman and Law School Professors Robert C. Boruchowitz and Mark Larranaga. As far as is known, it is the first such study by a team of social scientists and lawyers who have capital defense experience. The study was funded by a grant awarded by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington Foundation. The ACLU-WF had no role in conducting the research and did not influence the analysis and formulation of conclusions.