Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When death is too expensive, choose life

In today's New York Times comes the interesting news that the state fiscal crises are helping to accomplish what the Catholic Church has long sought for ethical reasons: an end to the death penalty. Even die-hard Catholic death penalty proponents like New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson, while unpersuaded by moral arguments, are yielding to economic pressure. Richardson has said he may sign a bill repealing capital punishment that passed the House last week and is pending in a Senate committee.

Other Catholic lawmakers such as Maryland's governor Martin O'Malley are taking advantage of the economic argument to sell a policy position that they already support on religious grounds. Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and New Hampshire have also introduced legislation seeking to repeal the death penalty.

An Urban Institute study on the cost of the death penalty in Maryland found that non-capital homicide cases cost about $1,103,000 to prosecute while successful death penalty cases cost $3,017,000 -- these figures include trial, penalty phase, state appeal, federal appeal, and cost of detention.

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