As previously blogged, Oklahoma outpaces Texas in terms of executions per capita; Delaware runs a very close third. As Tully pointed out, Texas does not have the Ninth Circuit, which delays executions until the end of time. As California is home to 36 million people, its presence (or absence) in any data set will skew the results. Only Pennslyvania, Connecticut, and Colorado have lower execution rates; California’s execution rate is roughly 1/13th of the national average.
The Boston Globe reported that Judge Arthur Alacron, of the Ninth Circuit, has called for an overhaul of California’s death penalty system. The state is notoriously slow to execute its prisoners:
The average wait for execution in the state is 17.2 years, twice the national figure. And the backlog is likely to grow, considering the trend: Thirty people have been on death row for more than 25 years, 119 for more than 20 years and 408 for more than a decade…. A legal challenge to the constitutionality of execution by lethal injection has put California executions on hold for the last 18 months…. California’s death row, with 667 inmates, is the nation’s largest. While 50 condemned prisoners have died of old age, suicide, or prison violence in the last three decades, only 13 have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978.
Roughly four times as many people die in prison as are executed by the State. While some people may prefer a de facto life in prison system instead of a capital punishment system, the cost differential is enormous: roughly a half-million dollars extra for the trial phase; $100,000 for appeals; and, generally, about $6.5 million per execution. (Arguably, the death penalty saves money: those who are in prison without parole would need maximum-security cells, lifetime health care, and, interestingly, are less likely to plead guilty, as there is no benefit to avoiding a death penalty which cannot be imposed.) Nevertheless, California has the worst of both worlds: the trial and appellate expense of a death penalty system and the lifetime prison costs of a non-death penalty system.
Death penalty stats will be adjusted for time, lack of California, and other factors soon. Neil, be happy!