Cost of Louisiana's death penalty - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Cost of Louisiana's death penalty

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

There are currently 88 inmates on Louisiana's death row, including two women. All were convicted in a court of law and are going through the appeals process before their time is up.

In the last 10 years, three people have been executed by lethal injection in Louisiana - a far cry from the 1980s when 18 inmates in the state were electrocuted for crimes committed. Louisiana is among 33 states where the death penalty is legal, but as the price goes up all have seen dramatic declines in capital cases.

"Many years ago the death penalty was used a whole lot more than it is now," said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier.  

The last capital murder case to be tried in Calcasieu Parish was Jason Reeves in November 2004 under then District Attorney Rick Bryant. A jury sentenced Reeves to death for the murder of 4-year-old Mary Jean Thigpen. Reeves has been serving his time on death row at Angola ever since.

"Taxpayers are paying a tremendous amount of money for death penalty cases," said DeRosier.

According to DeRosier when compared to other cases the cost for the death penalty is often triple. For example the recent Davis/Saltzman case cost taxpayers an estimated $77,000 to try in court. DeRosier said a death penalty case will easily come in at $250,000 or more.

The case of Lee Roy Williams, the man convicted of the Labor Day quadruple murders, was being considered to be tried as a death penalty case.

Though Williams originally denied his involvement in the four murders the evidence was mounting. He eventually confessed to investigators and accepted a plea deal. 8 1/2 weeks after the murders Williams was indicted, entered a guilty plea and sentenced all in the same day.

"When Williams was confronted with the physical evidence and confronted with the possible alternative of the death penalty he opted for four life imprisonment sentences consecutive to each other," said DeRosier.

Aside from the cost it's an uphill battle for prosecutors. Not only do they have to convince a 12 person jury the defendant is guilty of first degree murder, but those same 12 jurors must all agree on the death sentence.

"It's not easy to sit on a death penalty jury. When choosing a jury we have to be sure we choose a jury that can do the job under the law," said DeRosier.

Even though they are found guilty and sentenced to death the process and dollars are really only starting to add up.

"The appellate process starts at that point and that appellate process will go through the entire state system and if resulted in death penalty verdict it will also go through the federal system. It will take a lot of years and a lot of money," said DeRosier.

According to the Louisiana Department of Corrections it costs a little more than $60 a day to house and feed a prisoner at Angola. With the appeals process taking at least a decade if not longer - you can see the money being spent at the expense of taxpayers.

Though the costs are high DeRosier said, "It's a factor we consider. It's not necessarily the main factor we consider because we represent the community and we represent victims and that's our first consideration." 

Meanwhile without getting into all the details there are some pretty interesting death penalty cases in Louisiana.

Click here to view list of men on Louisiana's death row.

Click here to view list of women on Louisiana's death row.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

 

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