Attorneys only winners in lengthy death penalty appeals

Via the Billings Gazette:
Once again the Montana legislature is considering abolition of the death penalty in our state.

I am hoping that this measure passes, although I am not betting that it will. And I have no dog in this fight, as I know neither man currently in Montana State Prison awaiting execution nor do I know any family members of the victims. I have, in the past, dealt with and known murderers, and I have no empathy for someone on death row who has been convicted, with the seemingly endless appeals then upholding those convictions.

The moral issues involved in this debate have been argued back and forth for a very long time and will continue to be.

What I would like to know, as this issue winds it way through the capital to either become law or not, is exactly what does it cost over time to bring someone to execution as compared to a life sentence. The Montana Department of Corrections website shows that the daily cost of incarcerating a man at MSP in Deer Lodge is $94. That’s $34,310 per year. What I would like to know, and can’t seem to find any info about, is what does it cost for defense attorneys (an expense more often than not picked up by taxpayers) over the course of however many years a death penalty case goes on, as well as what the government spends on its own attorneys who prosecute these matters. Wouldn’t we be better off paying our government attorneys to work on other matters rather than years and years of death penalty case appeals?

It seems to me that the only “winners” in these cases are defense attorneys.

John Risken
Helena