Thursday, March 8, 2012

The high cost of murder

In 2010 the lethal drug cocktail used by the State of Texas to murder inmates cost all of $86. The cost of the lethal cocktail the state used to kill Keith Thurmond last night was $1,286.66. This according to the BBC.

That's a fifteen-fold increase in just two years.

The reason for the increase is the unavailability of thiopental sodium.  Many states, including Texas, have switched to pentobarbital as the first drug in the lethal cocktail.

It is unclear how long pentobarbital, the current replacement drug, will be available. 
The only company approved by US drug regulators to market the sedative in the US, Danish pharmaceutical giant Lundbeck, has just sold the drug to Illinois company Akorn, which has pledged to restrict distribution of it to prevent it being sent to prisons in capital punishment states. 
Now, purchasers must sign a form affirming they will use the drug, normally used to treat epilepsy and other conditions, on their own patients and not resell it without authorisation

And that's just the cost of the drugs. We're not even talking about the massive amount of money Texas spends every year to prosecute capital cases, the amount paid to defense attorneys representing indigent defendants and the amount spent on direct appeals. The estimated cost of a capital prosecution in Texas, according to Richard Deiter of the Death Penalty Information Center, is $2.3 million.

California has spent almost $4 billion to fund its capital punishment system, despite only carrying out 13 executions since 1978. This in a state that is struggling to pay its own bills and has slashed its education budget. Aren't there better users for our resources?
The state of Washington spent $97,814 (£62,004) to execute Cal Brown in 2010.
Ronnie Lee Gardner's 2010 execution by firing squad cost Utah $165,000 (£105,000). Most of that was staff pay, but $25,000 (£15,800) went on materials used in the execution, including the chair to which he was strapped and the jumpsuit he wore, a corrections spokesman told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The execution of rapist and murderer Robert Coe in 2000 cost Tennessee $11,668 (£7,395), according to a report by the state comptroller. That included medical supplies and personnel and the death drugs.
In 2010, only 23 countries around the world carried out executions. That puts the United States in the same company as China, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen. Hardly a Who's Who of representative democracies.

It's well past time we rethought our approach to capital crimes. It's time we took a serious look at with whom we keep company. This is the 21st century, surely we can do better.

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