Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cost of a Criminal Trial

Notable attorney Jeff Gamso wrote an essay about Anthony Sowell's trial, which has cost the county government $185,000 so far and is going to cost more. A lot more. As usual Jeff makes some good points and provides a few links. His efforts inspired me to write a response which I posted in the comments section (and which caused an error, but which posted anyway) and which I'll expand here. You can read Jeff's essay at this link: $185,000 and Counting and it's worth reading. Go and read it, then come back. I'll wait.

The trouble is that we the people are not consulted on cases like this. Consider both ends of the death penalty opinion spectrum. On one end sit Bubba, Sissy and Joe, none of whom can imagine spending $185 grand on anything, much less a trial for a whacked out serial killer. Their opinion consists of two thoughts:

"$185 grand?! Hell no I wouldn't spend it! Just take that crazy sumbitch out back and shoot him. Cost you fifty cents. Shit, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I know guys who'd actually pay five dollars to do it."

All of which is very likely the Sunday School truth. When you try to explain to this crowd why the death penalty can't work that way, the only progress you'll make is to create frustration with your seeming ineptitude to grasp the simplest of facts, whereupon you'll get the second part of their opinion.

"Just 'splain to me why we can't (caint?) take the crazy summbitch out back and shoot him. You know damn good and well it's 'cause of those bleedin' heart gun grabbin' commie fagot lib-rals!"

Just how the gun grabbing (with a gee, Bubba) etcetera Liberals are stopping such a sensible plan is never made clear, but it will remain an incontrovertible fact. The argument will then take you back to part one, taking the accused out back and shooting him. The thing is that in a case like this their idiotic argument begins to sound reasonable, especially when you consider the cost of an execution for someone who is much more than very likely a deranged serial killer.

At the other end of the bell curve are the overly zealous opponents of the death penalty, Blake, Henry, Winston and Elizabeth, each and every one of whom live or have lived in a home valued at more than $185,000, and what is more can easily imagine spending $185,000 on several items. As individuals they would certainly spend in excess of $185,000 in legal fees for their own defense or defense of their family, and likely would contribute heavily to someone else's defense fund, such as Jack Sparagowski and the convicted murderer Father Gerald Robinson See here, here and here.

Their arguments are generally based on all life being sacred, which is easy for them to believe because their lives are easy. They argue that the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which it does given the way that our justice system carries it out. However, as Bubba will point out, if you shoot someone in the back of the head he won't even know what hit him (or words to that effect). Finally there is the inherent wrongness of 'an eye for an eye', and all the world ending up blind if we go in that direction. The trouble is that phrase actually means that if someone steals $100 from my dear old mother I'm not allowed to burn their house down, kill their family and then go out there in the middle of the night and piss on the ashes!!

Sorry, I got carried away for a minute.

But spend $185,000 on the trial of a killer like Anthony Sowell? Not so much. They aren't willing to spend $185 grand on the trial either. They consider it a waste of money that could otherwise be spent on public works, such as teaching people to read or protecting endangered species, or confiscating Bubba's gun collection. Alright, I'm being unfair here. I don't believe they want the entire collection - just the functional firearms.

The one thing that these two groups can agree on is that it's just plain nuts to spend this much money on a trial that seems pretty open and shut to me. How much guiltier can this man be? Come on!

So establish some dollar amount as the maximum, say $5000 or so. If the projected expenditures exceed this amount, the death penalty gets taken off the table and replaced with life in prison without possibility of parole. On the other hand if the murdering 'sumbitch' is so completely, obviously guilty that the expenditures for the trial stay under the limit, then the death penalty can remain on the table. If this sounds a little too sensible to work, put it in front of the voting public and see what shakes out. I'll bet you'd be surprised.

Here are two links to the case:

Cleveland's nightmare on Imperial Avenue: One year later

Cost of suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell's defense surpasses $185,000 mark

I support the death penalty, and the case of Anthony Sowell is a good example of why we should have the death penalty. At the same time, the only method I believe to be humane is the firing squad, which is rarely used these days. More importantly, I oppose the procedure that the government uses to put criminals on death row.


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Capt. Schmoe said...

This topic seems to be hot right now, so I apologize if you've read these thoughts on another blog.

On an emotional level, there is something quite satisfying about executing someone so sick as to commit a crime so heinous. In that aspect I wholly support the death penalty.

On a pragmatic level, the death penalty process has become so cumbersome that it has become ineffective on every level and therefore outlived it's usefulness.

Thus, LWOPP (life without possibility of parole) is an effective option that permanently keeps the worst offenders away from us until death, without the circus that the death penalty brings.

My state spends an unbelievable amount of money on the defense of capital murder defendants and has not executed anyone in many years. Yet, we still sentence loads of people to death because we the people are overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty.

Other states like Texas, spend little on defense and execute many. I call it the capital crime paradox. The problem is that, as a society, if we decide we want to take someone's life, we better be damn sure that we smoke the right person.

As far as methodology goes, I agree - firing squad is not a bad way to go. It is neither inhumane nor is dying by gunshot that unusual.

From a moral standpoint however, the methodology issue to me is moot. I've seen dozens of people die over the years, most in a cruel, painful fashion, some in an unusual manner. Why should we be so concerned about how a serial murder goes? Well, other than the fact that the Constitution protects us from cruel and unusual punishment.

Hey, if you're going to support the second amendment, you have to support them all, even the eighth.

Thanks for your post and your rational thoughts.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks for the kind words, Captain.