Oregon's Death Penalty: A Cost Analysis
87 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017
Date Written: November 16, 2016
The primary goal of this study was to estimate the economic costs associated with aggravated murder cases that result in death sentences and compare those costs to other aggravated murder cases, the majority of which resulted in some form of a life sentence, in the state of Oregon. Importantly, Oregon law does not require the prosecution to file a formal notice indicating whether or not the state will seek the death penalty in aggravated murder cases. Therefore, all aggravated murder cases are treated as death penalty cases, likely inflating the average cost of aggravated murder cases that do not result in a death sentence. In order to provide a bit more context, we include costs for non-aggravated cases where defendants were charged with a lesser charge of murder, in categories where data were both available and reliable. The following are the main findings from the study, presented by total (includes all cost categories), then by individual cost category.
The information contained within this research report reflects a thorough analysis of data collected from hundreds of aggravated murder and murder cases over 13 years in Oregon, from 2000 through 2013. We also examined the appeals process of aggravated murder cases that resulted in death sentences between 1984 until 2000. The economic findings below are limited because no cost data were available or provided by district attorneys or the courts. We were able to get cost-related information from local jails (costs associated with incarceration during trial), Department of Corrections (DOC) (incarceration costs), Office of Public Defense Services (OPDS) (trial, appeals, and all stages of post-conviction costs), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) (Oregon’s Attorney General’s Office) (costs related to appeals and all stages of post-conviction). Although these categories make up a great deal of the overall costs related to aggravated murder cases, they only represent a portion of the total costs for pursuing the death penalty in Oregon. We approached all data and cost estimations from a conservative standpoint, meaning the costs are intentionally underestimated.
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