Every once in a while you come across a new argument on an issue you thought you knew all about. Capital punishment, for instance. The state has a right to kill people or it doesn't; the death penalty reduces crime or it doesn't. And so on. But now the New York Times reports a whole new look at the issue--states thinking about banning the death penalty because it's too expensive in these hard times.
The Times quotes Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley as telling his state senate that capital cases cost three times as much as homicide cases where the death penalty is not an issue, "And we can't afford that when there are better and cheaper ways of reducing crime." The Times says the issue has also been raised in other states--Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire, and it quotes experts as saying repeal of the death penalty has a good chance of passing in Maryland, Montana and New Mexico.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has supported the death penalty, now says he may sign a bill repealing it. He cites cost as one reason for his change of mind.
The experts say death penalty trials take longer, involve more expert witnesses and generate more appeals. In Maryland, prosecutors have sought the death penalty in 162 cases since it became legal again in 1978. They got it 56 times, but lost most of those on appeal. Only five people have actually been executed in Maryland. Five more are on death row.
Sounds like an idea whose time has passed, don't you think?
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