A Drake University law professor says the cost of reinstating the death penalty in Iowa is higher than supporters think. Republican state senator Larry McKibben of Marshalltown is trying to bring back the death penalty in the wake of convicted sex offender Roger Bently being found guilty of the murder of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl. McKibben says after initial startup costs, it may actually be less expensive to execute someone like Bently — rather than sentencing him to life in prison.
McKibben says there are defense costs, but he says the costs would be the same as Bently has now. McKibben says they’ve cut the appeals process so that the death penalty would automatically be appealed to the Supreme Court. McKibben says it’s not cheap to keep Bently in prison. McKibben says Bently is 37 and could live another 37 years with an annual prison cost of 25 to 35-thousand dollars a year, and he says Bently could develop a disease that raises the cost.
Drake University law professor David McCord says McKibben “vastly underestimates” the cost of a death penalty. McCord says the death penalty cases have two phases, the guilt/innocent phase that Bently had. There’s also the penalty phase, which Bently didn’t have, that McCord says requires mental evaluations and expert witnesses and adds greatly to the cost. McCord says there’s also the cost of training prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges to handle the death penalty — which Iowa lawyers haven’t done since 1965..
McCord says if Bently lived another 37 years at a 30-thousand dollars a year prison cost, that’s just over one million dollars, “That’s a drop in the bucket for what it would cost to take that case to a death penalty.” Senate democrats are vowing to block the death penalty debate this session. McCord and McKibben made their comments Monday on call-in program on K-U-N-I radio.