The capital murder prosecution of Michael Addison in New Hampshire will cost the state at least $978,000 in its first stage. Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte estimates that there are about eight lawyers working on Addison’s case from her office. The state has been allocated $420,000 for the four new staff members along with other office costs, to prosecute Addison. The $420,000 does not include the costs of salaried state prosecutors who are helping to prepare the case and litigating pre-trial issues. The New Hampshire Public Defender Office, which represents Addison, is expected to have spent about $530,000 by the end of its fiscal year in June.In brief, Addison is a convicted burglar and armed robber who gunned down a Manchester police officer who was investigating a domestic violence complaint. After "allegedly" killing the officer, Addison fled the state and led police on a lengthy manhunt, ultimately being arrested in Massachussetts. The victim, officer Michael Briggs (whose name apparently doesn't merit a mention over at at Capital Defense Weekly or at the DPIC site, the source of the CDW entry), was a former Marine and had, ironically, rendered first aid to Addison in an earlier, unrelated shooting incident. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.
Of course, even if it costs a million dollars to execute a cop-killer, the people of New Hampshire might consider it money well-spent.
But the DPIC and the abolition folks are, unsurprisingly, not telling the whole story. First, they don't tell us how much of these sums would be spent in any event prosecuting this crime. Even if the DP were off the table, this would be a high-profile case where the state would be pursuing a life sentence (LWOP). This is not a garden variety manslaughter case.
Second, even if the costs of this prosecution approach $2 million (an extremely high estimation), the ultimate costs of a LWOP sentence could easily approach that $2 million figure. Incarceration routinely cost $25-30,ooo/year. Maximum security costs are higher than that.
Bureau of Justice Statistics studies indicate that on average, a convicted felon serves about 24 years in prison. The BJS acknowledges that in cases of LWOP, this would be an underestimate. If we assume for illustration purposes, then, that an average 25 year-old LWOP inmate serves 40 years in prison, the incarceration costs are:
$30,000/year x 40 years = $1,200,000.
A very conservative estimate, since max security costs can reach upwards of $75,000/year per inmate. Add to this 1.2 million cost the extra litigation costs associated with a LWOP case, and you begin to approach the $2 million mark.
Moreover, New Hampshire is in a singular situation of being a very small state having to expend money on a one-time basis to handle one case. In most states, there is no need to hire new lawyers to handle DP cases.
I've always scratched my head when I hear abolitionist argue against the DP because it supposedly "costs too much." Would they be happier if appeals were truncated; rules of evidence were not stretched in capital cases as they are so that sentencing hearings become veritable re-creations of the defendant's entire life story? If expert testimony funding was restricted like it is most other cases? All these things make a capital case more expensive to prosecute. If the abolitionists care so much about the "burden on the taxpayer," will they advocate for streamlining DP cases?
No? Thought not.
Of course the prohibitionists care not about spending money; heck, certain of them have, vulture-like, literally made a living off of the DP. I suspect they very much like the lots of money being spent on these cases, which has provided a comfortable living for them. No, what they're interested in is trying to convince people that spending money on the DP is the only kind of state spending (besides perhaps defense spending) that is out of control and needs to be stopped. It takes little imagination to forsee that when the DP is abolished as being too expensive, these same people will still be with us, telling us that LWOP is too expensive, too cruel and unusual, and the rest of it.
In any event, the response is simple: if the DP is "too expensive," make DP cases less expensive by more carefully controlling the kinds of trial level and appellate shennanigans that constitute the bulk of the cost. One example of a cost-effective improvement in my own state of Virginia is the creation of regional public Capital Defenders who specialize in capital litigation and aid the primary defense counsel at much less cost than appointing expensive out of town litigators. Other savings can be found.
Regardless, however, of the cost, there will always be certain crimes that society judges are worth spending the modest extra money in order to see that justice is done.
The murder of Officer Briggs is, for the people of New Hampshire, exhibit #1.