Question about Death Penalty?

Why is the death penalty so expensive? Why can we not just buy a rope and hang the criminal or simply shoot them?

How do other countries such as Somalia, Sudan, and China take care of those criminals? Do they also pay such high costs or are they more efficient when it comes to executing criminals?


It doesn't matter if we're compared to these countries, I just need to know how those types of countries deal with the death penalty compared to the USA. All I need to know is if they do it efficiently with no trial and low costs, or if it's similar here and costs millions per each person.

8 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The cost of the actual execution is very tiny.

    Study after study has found that the death penalty is much more expensive than life in prison. Since the stakes are so high, the process is far more complex than for any other kind of criminal case. The largest costs come at the pre-trial and trial stages. The tremendous expenses in a death penalty case apply whether or not the defendant is convicted, let alone sentenced to death.

    Some factors:

    • more pre-trial time will be needed to prepare: cases typically take a year to come to trial

    • more pre-trial motions filed and answered

    • more experts will be hired

    • twice as many attorneys will be appointed for the defense, and a comparable team for the prosecution

    • jurors must be individually quizzed on their views about the death penalty, and they are more likely to be sequestered

    • two trials instead of one will be conducted: one for guilt and one for punishment

    • the trial will be longer: a cost study at Duke University estimated that death penalty trials take 3 to 5 times longer than typical murder trials

    Examples- trial costs (death penalty and non death penalty cases, California):

    People v. Scott Peterson, Death Penalty Trial

    $3.2 Million Total

    People v. Rex Allen Krebs Death Penalty Trial

    $2.8 Million Total

    People v. Cary Stayner, Death Penalty Trial

    $2.368 Million Total

    People v. Robert Wigley, Non-Death Penalty Trial

    $454,000 Total

    This data is for cases where the best records have been kept.

  • 8 years ago

    It's so expensive due to Constitutional requirements as interpreted by the US Supreme Court. The extensive trials arise from the "Due Process clause." Since losing one's life is a pretty big deal, extensive safeguards are necessary to provide some reasonable certainty the defendant got a fair trial. Those safeguards include mandatory appeals that go back over the trial record and look for errors. Naturally, those safeguards aren't perfect by any means. The rash of people exonerated over DNA evidence combined with the well-documented error rate of line-up identifications when the identifier and the identified are of different races and the huge variances between rates of convicted minorities who get the death penalty and convicted Caucasians who get the death penalty would suggest that these safeguards are, to say the least, insufficient.

    As to method, hanging is rather gruesome. The soon-to-be-deceased typically jerks around a little bit as they suffocate to death. There used to be a slang term for this, something like the "gallows jig," but I don't recall exactly. The current method of using overdoses of anesthesia and paralytics makes the whole thing palatable -- to the public. Query how much pain the person dying actually experiences. We don't know because they can't move or talk, but if you've ever seen an animal put down when the same chemicals are used and the needle misses the vein, you have some idea of how excruciating it might be for the person if the doctor screws up.

  • Mutt
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    The biggest part of the cost is all the appeals that the condemned person gets before they are executed. If we are going to execute a person for crimes they are found guilty of, we had better make sure that they are really guilty. Since 1992, the Innocence Project have freed 18 wrongfully convicted people from death row awaiting execution. But, there are no statistics on how many have actually been executed that were wrongfully convicted.

    Other countries I don't know about the cost. It may be lower because they may not grant rights to those convicted, and they get no appeals. If you notice, those countries you listed don't exactly have the best track record with human rights.

  • 8 years ago

    "More efficient" = more innocent people killed. So, yes - those countries are quite a bit "more efficient."

    And you're right, it's not even close - it costs WAY more to execute a prisoner than to keep him incarcerated for life.

    The numbers differ by state, but the reason for the disparity is that the government wants to be as sure as possible that it does not execute an innocent person. Toward that end, much more is spent on pre-trial preparation (most DP cases take about a year to come to trial), more pre-trial motions, more expert witnesses (on both sides), more attorneys (also on both sides), jury sequestration, security (needed because of more publicity in DP trials), an extra sentencing trial, death row incarceration (way more expensive than regular maximum security) and an exhaustive appeals process.

    This disparity becomes even greater when you consider the time value of money. Most of the additional costs of capital punishment are up-front, occurring before and during the trial itself, whereas most of the costs of life imprisonment are spread over the term of incarceration. Any first-year finance student (or lottery official) can attest that a dollar up-front is WAY more burdensome than a dollar spread over 30-40 years.

    Many argue that the high cost of capital punishment is why violent crime rates are HIGHER in death penalty jurisdictions - every extra dollar spent (wasted) on capital punishment is one that's NOT going to police, education, drug treatment facilities, women’s shelters, and other government programs that help *reduce* crime.

    Even with all of these expensive precautions in place, innocent people STILL get sentenced to death pretty regularly. Since 1973 in the U.S., 138 people have been released from death row because they were exonerated by DNA and other evidence. These are ALL people who were found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Unfortunately, DNA evidence is not available in most cases. So, as long as the death penalty is in place, you are pretty much GUARANTEED to occasionally execute an innocent person.

    Many would argue that is the highest cost of all.

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  • Jens
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Yes, they do it "efficiently" in pretty much the manner that you describe.

    They however don't really care much if half of the people that they execute is innocent either. No trial, or just a mock trial.

    Having a proper trial is where the big costs come from - and even that system is flawed and has sent innocents to death row. Just far less than in the other countries, fortunately.

  • 8 years ago

    in civilized countries the Death Penalty involves very lengthy expensive Criminal trials and years spent on Death Row while the system exhausts every possible route to appeal for the convicted party

    very very expensive

    while the execution itself is more expensive than $5 worth of rope it is probably the least costly part of the entire procedure

    in third world countries you can be caught in the act and blown away on the spot

    often called summary execution cost 1 expended 9mm round less than 5 cents for a military or police system buying ammo in bulk

  • 8 years ago

    I can explain the situation in somalia.

    Let me break it down, the criminal is tied up to something (tree or metal pole). then shot in the head.

    quick and probably 3 dollars, rope and a bullet.

    no millions here ;)

  • 8 years ago

    There is definitely an issue here as regards the costs to the tax payer however do we really want to be classed in the same category as the countries you have named....

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