The death penalty is a highly process in the United States today. Many states have outlawed it due to everything from prohibitive costs to “moral” objections. In the following paper we will be addressing the prohibitive cost factors of the death penalty in Maricopa County Arizona. We will be analyzing an article written May 24, 2010 by Gary Grado for the Arizona Capitol Times. His conclusions and recommendations will be reviewed. The object of the following analysis is to understand the current situation, review recommendations, and present our own.
Current situation in Maricopa County, Arizona:
According to the Gary Grado with Arizona Capitol Times (2010), “According to a March 10 budget- variance report, the only other excessive spending of significance was in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Civil Division, which at the time was $1.97 million over budget.” Over the course of the article Gary Grado shows that there stands to be a loss of more than eight million dollars by the Office of Public Defense services. He goes on to quote county officials regarding why this is occurring.
As we can see, “County officials cite four reasons for the excess of capital cases and costs: Many cases had to be tried again after a 2002 Supreme Court decision, subsequent changes to state law put the imposition of the death penalty into the hands of juries, the imposition of higher standards for defending capital cases, Superior Court’s strict adherence to speedy trial rules and an increase in the number of capital cases filed in Maricopa County.” (Gary Grado, 2010)
According to the director of Public Defense Services they would need an additional four million annually to operate. This was to support the various regulatory necessities afforded capital defenses. For instance the American Bar Association has a guideline that necessitates a team of defenders versus simply a single defender. With 117 cases in 2009 at an average cost of 300,000 dollars apiece this comes out to 35,100,000 for those cases alone and that is with the average cost alone.
Recommendations regarding this situation:
According to the Gary Grado, many of the recommendations made unfortunately called for additional resources that means that they would or could not be implemented. One thing that has been done is the Maricopa County Superior Court, established a new policy in March 2009 that effectively eliminated continuances in capitol cases. According to the new court rules cases must be tried within 18 months, this should reduce a backlog of cases.
In looking at the various causes of this situation, there are different approaches that can be taken. Currently many of the cases that were tried for capitol offenses ended with no death penalty. This means that “According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, 74 of 117 death penalty cases from February 2007 until February 2010 ended in plea deals for a lesser punishment.” (Gary Grado, 2010) According to these statistics it may be more beneficial to approach the entire process differently. For instance instead of bringing capitol charges automatically in some cases, a panel should decide if the case merits this approach or of the case should be plead out instead.
Another possible fix to this current situation would be in the amount of time being allowed for, preparation and the number of active attorneys involved. Possibly a sliding scale system can be used, where once the panel finds the case to be a capitol case, than the district attorneys office and one defense attorney (educated in capitol offenses) sits down with the client and discusses potential deals, or approaches. This way there is the potential to reduce the active case log by as much as 75% which would save approximately 20,000,000 dollars or more.
In conclusion we can see that although there are potential fixes available the unfortunate side effects of attempting to have an equal and fair justice approach means that we must at times spend more than we would want to spend. While some attempts may be made to reduce the expenditures there should be as much effort put into ensuring a fair and equal justice system for the victims and their families as well as the accused. Capitol offenses in a state that allows for the death penalty will always be hard to adjudicate. It may end up being more important to continue a system if it seems to be functioning than to change it and potentially cause additional problems in the future.
Grado, G. (2010, May 24).
Death-penalty cases put Maricopa county public defender’s office $8m. Arizona Capitol Times, bNet, Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/arizona-capitol-times/mi_8079/is_20100524/death-penalty-cases-maricopa-county/ai_n53832233/?tag=content;col1