ANNAPOLIS— In Maryland, $186 million has been spent on death penalty cases in the last 20 years, and such cases should be eliminated, said Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, on Friday.
“The less you seek death, the lower the price tag,” said Henderson.
Governor Martin O’Malley has signed a bill that would put significant restrictions on the use of the death penalty. It would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty only if biological evidence, videotaped interrogation and confession, or videotape linking the suspect to the crime is obtained.
Death penalty cases are three times as expensive as life sentencing cases, said Henderson. It costs around $3 million to prosecute a death sentence case while a life sentence case costs approximately $900,000 Henderson said.
For a death penalty case, two trials take place instead of one, making the process extraordinarily expensive, she said.
“On the upfront it’s two trials. Basically there’s a guilt/innocence phase and a sentencing phase,” she said.
The sentencing phase is necessary because it looks at several crucial factors of cases in order to conclude whether the crime warrants an execution, said Henderson.
These include both aggravating and mitigating factors that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and then weighed for seriousness, consuming more time and resources, said Henderson.
It also takes longer to seat a jury, Henderson said. In Maryland this is especially true because 40 percent of Maryland citizens are against the death penalty and are consequently disqualified by law from serving as jurors in death penalty cases, said Henderson.
Death penalty cases are often appealed to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, and if these attempts fail, the appeals can reach the federal court system, running litigation costs even higher, said Henderson.
The repealing of Maryland’s death penalty would not only save money, but could also free finances up to provide additional
grief counseling services and deter homicides from happening in the first place, Henderson said.
Jurisdictional as well as racial bias are also substantial reasons to eliminate Maryland’s death penalty, said Henderson.