Attorney General Doug Peterson on Tuesday disputed the estimated $14.6 million annual cost of retaining the death penalty in Nebraska cited a day earlier in a study commissioned by supporters of ending capital punishment in the state.
"Relying heavily on studies from California, Florida, Texas and other states, this group's report fails to accurately reflect actual costs associated with the death penalty in Nebraska," Peterson said.
Pointing to the major cost factor of death penalty appeals cited by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss in the report prepared for Retain a Just Nebraska, the attorney general noted that his office handles all criminal appeals filed by the state of Nebraska, including those filed by inmates facing the death penalty.
"The total number of criminal appeals filed is approximately 500 per year," Peterson said, and less than 1 percent of those appeals are filed in capital cases annually.
"It is misleading for this report to conclude that, on an annual basis, having the death penalty costs an amount that far exceeds the total annual budgets of both the Nebraska attorney general's office and the state public defender's office combined," he said.
"Nebraska voters are entitled to accurate Nebraska figures as they determine whether to keep the death penalty in Nebraska."
The study by Goss and Associates Economic Solutions stated that costs associated with the death penalty as opposed to a sentence of life without parole are higher at every stage of the judicial and correctional process, including legal defense, pre-trial activities, jury selection, length of trial, incarceration and appeal.