2011/09/23

The Costs of Nevada's Death Row

From: 8News Now, Sept 23rd 2011

LAS VEGAS -- Controversy surrounded the death of Troy Davis, executed Wednesday night in Georgia. The death row inmate was convicted in the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer who was trying to break up a fight involving a homeless man.

Davis maintained his innocence until his final breath inside the George State Prison. No physical evidence ever linked him to the crime, and seven of the nine prosecution witnesses recanted their testimonies.

However, all appeals were denied, including a last-minute decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that decided the case was sound and the execution went forward.

Slideshow: Inside Nevada's Death Row

Capital punishment is not a common practice in Nevada. In fact, the Silver State is behind the rest of the country in executions. Many death row inmates cases are tied up in appeals for years, costing taxpayers millions.

Since 1976, 12 convicted murderers have died under Nevada's death penalty, while another 88 sit on death row waiting to die or hoping their sentence will be overturned. Fortunately for them, the odds are in their favor. For the vast majority of Nevada's death row inmates, they will never see the death chamber in Carson city.

A UNLV study found only one in 13 inmates will see their sentence through. Nationally, the numbers are one in eight.

"A lot of defendants waive their appeals and voluntarily want the death penalty and the Supreme Court still has to take a look at it," said defense attorney John Momot.

Every capital conviction gets an automatic appeal, but they rarely end there.

"What's the harm in letting the record be reviewed as many times as possible just to make sure?" said Momot.

Those appeals get expensive. The I-Team reported last year a plan to study Nevada's capital punishment costs failed in the state legislature in 2009. But research in other states, like Kansas, Maryland and North Carolina, estimated executions average between $500,000 and $2 million more than non-death penalty cases.

"The Ninth Circuit entertains appeals over and over and over again, so there is no finality to capital cases," said Clark County District Attorney David Roger.

Many inmates spend decades on death row, hoping for their case are overturned.

"If you think sitting in jail with this hanging over your head is something that's easy, it isn't. A lot of these people just as soon have it all over," said Momot.

Read the rest here.

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