Judicial Experts Aim to Bring Down Death Penalty Costs

A panel convened by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has begun to look at ways the state could save money on death penalty cases.

Indiana Supreme Court

Photo: Bill Shaw

A panel of judicial experts is reviewing whether capital punishment proceedings may be made cheaper in Indiana.

Death penalty cases can take as much as a decade to fully decide and cost the county in which they originate as much as a million dollars.  That’s money Attorney General’s office spokesman Bryan Corbin said can be tough to allocate.

“It is a daunting prospect, and it’s not something that a county can budget for because you don’t know when you’re going to have a horrible, heinous murder like that,” Corbin said.  “So that just drops into the county council’s lap to have to fund.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he’s concerned about how much death penalty cases cost, but admits he doesn’t have any solutions which don’t infringe on a defendant’s right to due process.  Corbin said a panel Zoeller convened heard of a report from a Rutgers University professor who advocates lessening the number of expert witnesses which may be paid to testify at a capital punishment trial.  Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw said he believes such a measure would be quickly struck down, but added he does have an idea for how to lessen the financial burden on counties — which must not only pay for the prosecution of a death penalty cases, but in some cases for its defense as well.

“The way to address that would be obviously if there were some sort of fund set up through the state where, if that decision was made, that the state would pick up those costs and those burdens wouldn’t be borne by the local counties in which those cases were filed,” he said.

The state is in the midst of a three-year study on how to streamline its judicial system and will present results of the study to the state legislature.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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