Local News

Does the Death Penalty Cost More Than a Life Sentence?

Posted May 24, 2007

— Does the death penalty cost the state more than a life sentence?

That’s a question state lawmakers want answered, and they're calling for a study before there's any movement to restart executions in North Carolina.

There's already a de facto moratorium on executions in North Carolina. Lawmakers are pushing various death penalty bills, but the only ones getting traction deal with fairness and cost, not stopping or starting lethal injection.

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said that studies from other states make it clear that “life without parole is a cheaper alternative.”

Court battles over the role of a doctor – state policy requires one to be present; the State Medical Board forbids participation – indicate no one will die in North Carolina's execution chamber anytime soon. The majority of lawmakers appear to be in no hurry to change that.

Death penalty bills that are moving seek to give a closer look to cases involving the poor and people of color, trying to ensure they're getting fair treatment at sentencing.

District attorneys like Jim Woodall, who covers Orange County, say they're caught in the middle as they prosecute murder cases.

It's politically safe for lawmakers to let the courts sort out the controversy. Ultimately, however, the final say falls on the General Assembly.

“We need to know what the legislative will of the state is,” Woodall said.

Rep. Joe Kiser, R-Lincoln, said he can understand why district attorneys are ill at ease.

“From one day to the next, we don't realize what's going to happen down here,” Kiser said.

Whatever happens, prosecutors want a decision on when and if executions will resume.

“Politically, now's not the time there's going to be an up or down vote,” Woodall said, “but I think we've got to get to that point sooner rather than later.”

Many lawmakers say they'd like to wait on the courts to clear up the controversy over lethal injection.

Cases are now pending in state and federal courts.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Run_Forrest_Run May 25, 2007

    The cost is incurred in the legal battles that occur after the person is determined guilty. It has to go through one appeal after another (needs to be changed to 1 appeal, done). Evidentally its more efficient to house prisoners than to pay continual court cost....at least thats what my Criminal Justice Professors taught me years ago.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy May 25, 2007

    SO WHAT!....Here's an Idea, I'll VOLUNTEER MY time to pull the lever...it's FREE...end of argument.

  • Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr May 25, 2007

    "District attorneys like Jim Woodall, who covers Orange County, say they're caught in the middle as they prosecute murder cases."
    "“We need to know what the legislative will of the state is,” Woodall said."

    Why did they waste their time asking an Orange County DA? He won't try a murder case, even if a violent recidivist kills a child, so it's a moot point.

  • smitty May 25, 2007

    This is not new. I remember doing a report on this in HS 20 years ago.

  • Drifter May 24, 2007

    Hi. Liberal Democrat here! My opinion? Go back to the noose. Cheap, realiable, reusable. Everyone wins!

    Oh and let's kill them a little sooner as well. That would save a lot of court costs and all those prison expenses. The conservatives need all the money they can get for their inane little projects that do little to nothing for the people.

  • Lit May 24, 2007

    Since when does justice have a monetary value? Justice demands the penalty for anyone who commits 1st degree murder, irregardless of how much it costs. And even above that, there's plenty of "cheap" ways to execute the death penalty.

  • jim2dart May 24, 2007

    According to liberal attorneys, who manipulates the media, it does. Talk to the majority of the public (who pay's the price and nobody hears ) it's a stupid argument.

  • then who cares May 24, 2007


  • 123letsgo2 May 24, 2007

    Not if the STATE uses a BULLET. They are cheap, it is time to use them (BULLETS) for something constructive, not for committing more crime.

  • then who cares May 24, 2007

    Don't make people waste their time! If you're not going to post it, don't allow for posts!!!