What Avedon Said


In other news, it turns out the death penalty in Florida costs $51m a year more than just holding convicted killers for life. But, hey, that’s pocket change compared to the certainty that killing people is good.

Of course, I am sure you all know the response from the death penalty crowd- “Get rid of all those unnecessary legal protections for the obviously guilty!” I mean, sometimes, it takes decades of costly legal wrangling before you get to kill an innocent man. That shit gets expensive.

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30 replies
  1. 1
    Politically Lost says:

    Fits right in with your fiscal conservative meme…

  2. 2
    qi4all says:

    While I loathe the death penalty, John Couey died of cancer in FL prison today and Jessica Lunsford’s family is relieved as they won’t have to endure years of death penalty appeals on his behalf.

  3. 3
    ironranger says:

    This will not sway rightwingers. You can point out that this social program or that one saves a lot of money than not having those programs & they entirely dismiss the facts showing the savings to taxpayers. It will be the same with execution vs prison. The “fiscally responsible” conservatives much prefer executions over cost savings. I think I recently read that executions cost one state $219 billion a year. You’d think that would get their attention & they’d be standing in line to abolish executions…haven’t seen it yet.

  4. 4
    Alan says:

    That’s a very very large figure, $51 million a year more. Sounds like a bit of gerrymandering took place to arrive at that number. Nonetheless, capital punishment should only be used, if at all, for the most heinous of crimes–like bankrupting our banking system.

  5. 5
    MikeJ says:

    I think I recently read that executions cost one state $219 billion a year.

    Possibly million. No way any US states spends $219 Billion. Washington state only takes in about $35B/yr.

  6. 6
    NR says:

    This sounds like a good use of all the money we’re saving by not having publicly run health care.

  7. 7

    Of course, I am sure you all know the response from the death penalty crowd- “Get rid of all those unnecessary legal protections for the obviously guilty!”

    Todd Willingham would beg to differ if he weren’t wrongly executed by the least defendant friendly state in the Union. Obviously.

  8. 8
    LoveMonkey says:

    While it is factual and useful to note the true costs of the death penalty, I prefer not to debate the issue on those grounds. We oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, regardless of the cost delta between DP and life imprisonment.

    The death penalty cannot be supported on moral grounds unless the government can be shown to be perfectly inerrant in its prosecution of death penalty cases. In other words, if there is the possibility (more to the point, if there is the liklihood) that mistakes will be made and innoncent persons executed, then the penalty cannot be morally defended.

    The government cannot and will not be inerrant, and therefore, it will execute innocent persons. For that reason, the death penalty must be eliminated.


  9. 9
    Warren Terra says:

    I’m not really impressed by the fiscal argument, because I’m perfectly comfortable with the state executing some people, so long as some conditions – some very expensive conditions – are met, i.e. that we only execute individuals who are known to have committed inconceivable acts, that their guilt is assured beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that we’ve provided them with all possible protections of law and a vigorous defense and access to appeals. Executions of such people would be a solemn statement, made at great expense and with great certainty – but they darn sure wouldn’t be cheap.

    In the real world, of course, we execute schmucks whose underpaid lawyer didn’t prepare a case or slept through trial, we execute people because their legal team missed an office’s closing hour by a smidgen, we execute people on fraudulent evidence where no crime even occurred. Even leaving aside the issues of certainty and due process, far too many crimes are subject to the death penalty.

    And, as you suggest, some people actually do suggest that we execute prisoners to save money on their incarceration. It’s good to know that they’re incorrect about the money, of course, but the bigger issue is that the argument itself is pretty sick.

  10. 10
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    We should kill ’em first, then have the trial. If it turns out they weren’t guilty, we’ll get to kill someone else!

  11. 11
    Penfold says:


    Yeah, $219 billion is at or above the GDP of many states, and even for the largest states and urban areas that would be a huge chunk of GDP, never mind tax receipts.

  12. 12
    ironranger says:

    Ooops, meant to type million.

  13. 13
    Ash says:

    that we only execute individuals who are known to have committed inconceivable acts, that their guilt is assured beyond a shadow of a doubt

    Pretty much impossible. Even an HD video of a dude hacking up someone with a butcher knife could be skewed/doctored.

  14. 14
    handy says:

    You know who else supported the death penalty? HITLER!

    Ok I’m done here…

  15. 15
    burnspbesq says:



  16. 16
    Penfold says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Despite being pretty far left on the (US) political spectrum, this is an issue I’ve always been torn about. My feelings about the state using violence against its own citizens except in response to direct threat (e.g. someone who is, say, shooting at a police officer) are not generally positive, and yet there are some people whose crimes are so heinous that one wonders if its not best to completely remove them from society.

    Of course, the real world problems with this are endless, not the least of which is that we have a tendency to execute innocent people. Pragmatically, I think, the death penalty at the very least needs a loooong moratorium.

    This kind of reminds me of the Polanski thread from yesterday. While I’m (usually) against all the extreme punishments that some people want to heap on, e.g. child molesters, in the justice system, I simultaneously feel this: If say, a victim’s father or mother were to go out and shoot said person, and I were a DA, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to prosecute.

    This is a moral question I’ve never found easy to answer in the absolute. Though, in practice, we should probably stop killing innocent people.

    Edit: oh, the other part of my argument: I’m not impressed by the financial issue one way or the other, though I suppose if it were to have some political utility in converting those who can’t see the moral dimensions, then maybe it has some relevance.

  17. 17
    Rosali says:

    And there are some who argue that having flames shoot out of the convict’s head while he’s being electrocuted by Old Sparky is not cruel and unusual.

  18. 18
    Rosali says:

    And there are some who argue that having flames shoot out of the convict’s head while he’s being electrocuted by Old Sparky is not cruel and unusual.

  19. 19
    whatsleft says:

    In all fairness, you should remember our (Florida’s) motto regarding the death penalty – At Least We’re Not Texas!

  20. 20
    Rosali says:

    Sorry for the double post. I haven’t mastered the new edit function

  21. 21
    eric k says:


    If there were no death penalty and he had been sentenced to life without parole they would never have had to go through that either.

  22. 22
    LoveMonkey says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    You are probably the only guy here who could make me laugh out loud about the death penalty. As you can tell, I take the subject rather seriously.

    So, what I said. Barring that, what you said ;)

  23. 23
    LoveMonkey says:

    we should probably stop killing innocent people.

    No offense, but no.

    We are morally bound to stop killing innocent people, and to prevent it from happening in the future, in this context.

    Anything short of that is not morally defensible AFAIC.

  24. 24
    JR says:

    Speaking of Willingham, Rick Perry just began his cover-up this afternoon. He sacked three of the members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and cancelled Friday’s meeting where they were to take testimony from the expert hired to investigate the case.


  25. 25
    superking says:

    Who are these people who are “obviously guilty?” People who are “obviously guilty” don’t get sentenced to death because . . . wait for it . . . they strike a plea bargain. People who are obviously guilty never get to trial because they’re afraid they’ll lose and be sentenced to death.

    The people waiting to be put to death usually had some potential defense.

  26. 26
    Pangloss says:

    You have to figure that the mentally retarded death row inmates cost a little less. So there’s a good campaign for fiscal responsibility right there….

  27. 27
    Mike P says:

    I just want to say that David Grann’s article should be mentioned as often as possible, both because it’s probably the single best refutation to give to anyone who still believes in the death penalty as a remedy and because it’s journalism of the highest order.

  28. 28
    Nicole says:

    @superking: Ted Bundy was offered a plea bargain (Three 25-year sentences), but he figured he had a chance to be acquitted. I guess he didn’t think he was obviously guilty.

  29. 29
    Nicole says:

    The really big problem I see with using cost as justification for abolishing the death penalty is that those costs are being incurred in an attempt to prove the convicted person is truly guilty, correct? I find it impossible to believe there aren’t also wrongly convicted people who have been sentenced to life imprisonment, but, because they are not on death row, they don’t get the same opportunities to prove their innocence (automatic appeal, etc). And I don’t see how we can blithely say, “Well, just make it all life without possibility of parole” when all that means is that we’re willing to see innocent people spend the rest of their days without freedom, just so we can say we didn’t kill them. So basically, torture for 50 years instead of death. It’s not addressing the real problem, which is a legal system that is inherently biased against the defendant and is even more biased against the convicted. The additional costs of the death penalty sentences are ones we should be just as willing to incur in the sentences of life without parole. Arguments that abolishing the death penalty saves the state money do more harm to the wrongfully convicted than they do good.

  30. 30
    Sid Viscous says:

    Fiscal conservatism goes out the window when it comes to core conservative principles, like punishing and killing people in jail or overseas. Their fear and hate and authoritarianism must be sated.

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