Our Lust for Deadly Revenge Wastes Millions

Oregon’s Death Penalty:
A Cost Analysis

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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.

  1. Main Findings

We   provide   economic   cost   findings   by   case   category   and   cost   subcategory.   Because   of   the   complex   nature   of   aggravated  murder  cases  —  for  example,  that  some  death   penalty   cases   had   original   death   sentences   reversed   and   resentenced  as  true  life/life  without  the  possibility  of  parole   (LWOP)  —  we  provide  two  separate  sets  of  analyses  based   on   each   main   case   category.   First,   we   provide   findings   based   on   whether   the   case   was   designated   as   a   death  penalty  case,  meaning  there  was  a  conviction  and  original  sentence  of  death,  but  in  some  cases,   that  initial  sentence  was  reversed.  Those  findings  are  marked  “A”  below.  Second,  we  provide  an   analysis   based   on   final   (to-­‐‑date)   case   categories.   Those   findings   are   marked   “B”   below.   Cost   subcategories  include  jail  costs,  OPDS  costs,  DOC  costs,  and  DOJ  costs.  For  both,  we  compare  the   death  penalty  cases  to  death-­‐‑eligible  but  not  sentenced  to  death  cases,  most  of  which  resulted  in   true   life/LWOP   sentences.   Similar   to   the   non-­‐‑enumerated   analyses   above,   where   appropriate  (only  jail  and  OPDS  costs  could  be  reliably  calculated)  we  bring  in  non-­‐‑aggravated  murder  as  an   additional  point  of  comparison.i  With  that  context  in  mind,  here  are  our  main  findings:

  • The  average  cost  difference  between  aggravated  murder  cases  that
    (A)  begin  or
    (B)   result  in  the  death  penalty,compared  to  those  aggravated  murder  cases  that  result  in   either  true  life/LWOP,  ordinary  life,  or  shorter  sentences  is  (not  including  DOC  costs):
    A=  $802,106  (3.55);

    B=  $1,056,093  (4.16).

 

  • The  average  cost  difference  including  DOC  costs:
    A=  $918,896  (1.69);
    B=  $887,385  (1.53).

 

  • The  average  cost  of  pursuing  the  Death  Penalty  has  increased  significantly  over  the  last   few  decades.  This  continuing  trend  can  be  seen  in  Chart  2,  below.

 

  • A  total  of  62  individuals  have  been  convicted  and  sentenced  to  death  in  Oregon  since   1984.Twenty-­eight  of  those  individuals  are  no  longer  on  death  row.Of  those  28  cases,   just  two  cases  have  resulted  in  death  (both  individuals  dropped  their  appeals  and   “volunteered”  to  be  executed),  four  people  died  of  natural  causes  while  in  prison,  and   22  people,  or  roughly  79%,  have  had  their  sentences  reduced.One  person  had  his  case   dismissed  on  direct  appeal  and  another  person  pled  to  manslaughter—both  were   released.  The  remaining  20  people  had  their  sentences  changed  from  death  to  either   true  life/LWOP  or  ordinary  life.

(Note:  above,  ratios  are  presented  in  parentheses;  in  Table  1.e  below,  A=  Original  Death  Sentence,   B=  Current  Sentence  Status)

(i  The  prosecution  and  courts  could  not  produce  any  reliable  per‑case  cost  estimates.  For  all  adjustments,   the   Organization   for   Economic   Co-­operation   and   Development   (OECD)   Main   Economic   Indicators   (complete  database,  base  year   2010,  Consumer  Price  Index  –  Total  All  Items  for  the  United  States)  were   used  to  adjust  nominal  values  into  2010  dollars.  The  findings  are  then  presented  in  real  2016  dollars.  

Table  1.e.  Total  Average  Differences  by  Cost  Category  and  Case  Category,  in  2016  Dollars.

 

Cost  Category

Case   Category  

N

 

Mean

 

Mean  Diff

 

Ratio

Set  A.

Total
w/o  DOC  Costs

Agg  Mur 313 $315,159
DP 61 $1,117,265 $802,106* 3.55
Set  A.
Total
with  DOC  Costs
Agg  Mur 313 $1,354,883
DP 61 $2,273,779 $918,896* 1.68
Set  B.
Total
w/o  DOC  Costs
Life 219 $334,522
DP 41 $1,390,616 $1,056,093* 4.16
Set  B.
Total
with  DOC  Costs
Life   DP 219

41

$1,682,282

$2,569,667

 

$887,385*

 

1.53

Note:  Case  Category:  Set  1  =  all  death  penalty  designated  cases;  Set  2  =  current  sentence  death   penalty  compared  to  life sentences.  *p<  .001  (t-­‐‑tests  for  set  1  and  F,  ANOVA  for  set  2). 

B.   Death Penalty Post-Conviction Findings

Since  1984,  when  Oregon  reinstated  the  death  penalty,  juries  have  sentenced  62  people  to  death.   Of  the  62  sentenced,  34  (54.84%)  people  remain  on  death  row  today  and  their  cases  are  still  active   and  at  some  stage  in  the  appeals  process.  Of  the  remaining  28,  two  people  were  put  to  death  after   voluntarily  dropping  their  appeals  and  four  people  have  died  in  prison  of  natural  causes.  One   person  had  his  case  dismissed  on  direct  appeal  and  was  released  from  prison,  and  another  person,   after   multiple   appeals   pled   to   manslaughter   and   was   released   after   serving   his   sentence.   The   remaining  20  people  had  their  sentences  changed  from  death  to  either  true  life/LWOP  or  ordinary   life.  For  all  of  the  effort  to  pursue  death,  so  far  just  two  out  of  62  death  cases  have  concluded  with   an  execution.

Table  2.e.  Death  Penalty  Post-­‐‑
Conviction  Details  (n=62).

   n          %  total     w/in  group%

DP  since  1984     62            100

Still  in  Process    34           54.84

Total  Completed   28           45.16

Death  (vol)               2             3.23                7.14

Death  (nat)               4             6.45               23.04

Off  Death  Row        22           35.48             78.57

Notes:   “Completed”   means   that   the   case   has   come   to   a   conclusion:  “vol”  =  voluntary  “nat”  =  natural  causes.  

C.   Additional Findings

The  vast  majority  of  aggravated  murder  cases,  whether  death  penalty  or  non-­‐‑death  penalty,  are   complicated  and  time-­‐‑consuming  cases.  Death  penalty  cases,  however,  outpaced  all  others  in  the   average  number  of  hearings  and  defense  and  prosecution  court  filings.  We  include  the  following   analysis   to   shed   light   on   these  complexities.   Additionally,   because   we   had   reliable   data   for   a   sample  of  non-­‐‑aggravated  murder  cases, we  include  averages  here  to  provide  an  additional  point of  comparison.

  • Average  number  of  hearings:  Aggravated  Murder  Death  Penalty=  20.93,  Aggravated   Murder  non‑Death=  9.79,  Average  Difference=  11.14  (ratio=  2.138).
    • Non-­aggravated  Murder=  8.13;  Average  Difference  when  compared  to  Aggravated   Murder  Death  Penalty  =  12.8  (ratio=  2.574),  and  when  compared  to  Aggravated   Murder  non-­‐‑Death=  1.66  (ratio=  1.204).

 

  • Average  number  of  defense  court  filings:  Aggravated  Murder  Death  Penalty=  39.21,   Aggravated  Murder  non-­‐‑Death=  19.58,  Average  Difference=  19.63  (ratio=  2.003).
    • Non-­aggravated  Murder=  5.63;  Average  Difference  when  compared  to  Aggravated   Murder  Death  Penalty=  33.58  (ratio=  6.964),  when  compared  to  Aggravated   Murder  non-­‐‑Death=  13.95  (ratio=  3.478).

 

  • Average  number  of  prosecution  court  filings:  Aggravated  Murder  Death  Penalty=  25,   Aggravated  Murder  non-­‐‑Death=  10.31,  Average  Difference=  14.69  (ratio=  2.425).
    • Non-­aggravated  Murder=  3.2;  Average  Difference  when  compared  to  Aggravated   Murder  Death  Penalty=  21.8  (ratio=  7.813),  when  compared  to  Aggravated  Murder   non-­‐‑Death=  7.11  (ratio=  3.222).

D.   Geographic Analysis for Sample Cases

Table  3.e.,  below,  provides  a  breakdown  of  the  geographic  location  of  the  original  sentence  and   current  sentence  or  outcome,  in  total,  of  the  cases  included  in  this  study  (N  =  374).  The  majority   of  the  cases  are  concentrated  in  six  counties,  beginning  with  Multnomah,  followed  by  Clackamas, and  then  Washington,  Lane,  Marion,  and  Umatilla  counties.

Table  3.e.  Database  Case  Frequency  (f),
by  County  and  Sentence  Outcome  (B)  (N  =  374).

Death* Life
(some  version)
Other Total  f  (%)
**Multnomah

Clackamas

Washington

Lane

Marion

Umatilla

Coos

Deschutes

Douglas

Linn

6  (14)

3  (4)

5  (6)

7  (8)

9  (11)

0

2  (3)

1  (1)

3  (5)

0  (2)

70

23

15

12

12

15

11

12

7

5

46

7

7

7

1

5

4

2

4

5

123* (32.9)

33  (8.8)

27  (7.2)

26  (7.0)

22  (5.9)

20  (5.3)

17  (4.5)

15  (4.0)

14  (3.7)

10  (2.7)

Total 36  (54) 182 88 307  (82.1)

Notes:  *Under  Death  Column,  numbers  in  (parenthesis)  are  counts  of  original  death  sentences.  The   following  counties  had  fewer  than  9  cases  (both  AggM  and  DP,  respectively)  and  were  not  included   above:  Klamath  (7,1);  Benton  (6);  Clatsop  (6);  Jackson  (6);  Josephine  (5);  Curry  (3,1);  Polk  (3,1);  Yamhill   (3,1);  Columbia  (2,1);  Grant  (3);  Lincoln  (2,1);  Malheur  (3);  Tillamook  (3);  Harney  (2);  Union  (2);  Wasco   (1,1);  Baker  (1);  Crook  (1);  Hood  River  (1);  Total  in  notes:  Death:  5,  Life:  37,  Other:  25,  Total  =  67  (17.9%),   307  (82.1%),  374  total  (313  agg  murder;  61original  DP).  **Multnomah  also  contains  one  acquittal  case,   not  counted  in  the  columns,  but  counted  in  the  row  total.