Nebraska's legislature recently made headlines when it ended the state's death penalty. Many found it odd that a conservatives-dominated legislature would support ending capital punishment, since conservative politicians have traditionally supported the death penalty. However, an increasing number of conservatives are realizing that the death penalty is inconsistent with both fiscal and social conservatism. These conservatives are joining with libertarians and liberals in a growing anti-death-penalty coalition.
It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty. New Hampshire recently spent more than $4 million prosecuting just two death penalty cases, while Jasper County in Texas raised property taxes by 7 percent to pay for one death-penalty case! A Duke University study found that replacing North Carolina's death penalty would save taxpayers approximately $22 million in just two years.
Death-penalty cases are expensive because sentencing someone to death requires two trials. The first trial determines the accused person's guilt, while the second trial determines if the convicted individual "deserves" the death penalty. A death sentence is typically followed by years of appeals, and sometimes the entire case is retried.
Despite all the time and money spent to ensure that no one is wrongly executed, the system is hardly foolproof. Since 1973, one out of every 10 individuals sentenced to death has been released from death row because of evidence discovered after conviction.