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DEATH PENALTY INVESTIGATION: Governor vetoes chance to get death penalty's cost in Nevada

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Updated: 6/29 12:12 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- How much does the death penalty cost in Nevada?

Two years ago the state Legislature asked that question.

But when it comes to the ultimate power of government, the power to kill a convicted criminal, one powerful lawmaker is not asking -- and stopped you from finding out -- how much it costs.

Lawmakers voted for an audit, but Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed that proposal.

A capital case costs more than one when the death penalty is not on the line.

Lawyers: A capital defendant automatically gets two public defenders.

A study by UNLV's Department of Criminal Justice shows the average death penalty case requires twice the hours of a non-capital case, which is about $212,000 more per case.

Many capital cases go to the office of appointed counsel inside the government center, where private attorneys are paid $125 per hour.

It currently has 31 open trial cases that cost an average of $240,000 each to defend, which totals $7.4 million. That doesn't even cover the lengthy, costly and mandatory appeal process.

Clark County Public Defender Philip Kohn says millions could be saved by declining to pursue the death penalty.

Housing: Most on death row are at ely state prison, where the average inmate housing cost is $23,360.

The Department of Corrections does not have an average cost of death row inmates, but the Death Penalty Information Center estimates capital offenders are two to three times more expensive.

Here's a breakdown of expenses for several states collected by DPIC:

Maryland: Five executions will cost $186 million.

New Jersey: Taxpayers have spent $253 million over 12 years.

California: If the governor were to commute the sentences of those on death row, the state would save $170 million per year.

Tennessee: Death penalty trials cost an average of 48 percent more than those who seek life imprisonment.

Between 1982 and 1997, the extra cost of capital trials across the country totaled $1.6 billion.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom pushed to find out exactly how much the death penalty costs Nevada taxpayers, but the governor vetoed the audit, citing concern that the bill was too vague and the analysis would not be fair.

The legislature could act Friday, which would be the last day to vote to override the governor's 2011 veto, but Segerblom says he doesn't expect that to happen. He may, however, re-introduce a bill that would call for an audit of the death penalty.

RELATED: Lawmakers approve money for new execution chamber in Ely


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