FEATURED POST

Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

Image
In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Colorado: Aurora theater shooting trial cost taxpayers at least $3 million

James E. Holmes and attorney
James E. Holmes and attorney
Final cost of James Holmes' trial in the Aurora theater shooting likely won't ever be known

Jailing, evaluating and prosecuting the man who committed the Aurora movie theater shooting cost taxpayers at least $3 million, but the final expense of one of the mostly closely watched court cases in Colorado history may never be known.

The $3 million tab was compiled by The Denver Post following multiple open-records requests over the past year. It covers the amount spent from 2012 through 2015 specifically on preparing for and seeing through the trial of James Holmes.

Nearly $1.6 million of the cost was covered by federal grants.

When including the salaries of judges, prosecutors, sheriff's deputies and other government employees who spent most or all of their time on the case - but who would have been paid regardless - the total cost rises to more than $7 million.

And there's still a big chunk of expense missing from that amount. The state's taxpayer-funded public defenders - who represented Holmes - are not required to disclose what they spend on a case. Doing so, they say, would violate ethics rules and subject poor defendants to lower standards of attorney-client confidentiality.

Generally, the Office of the State Public Defender reports having spent nearly $2 million on death-penalty and potential death-penalty cases since July 2002, not including staff salaries.

The theater shooting trial was one of the longest in state history. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, and Holmes, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, underwent 2 psychiatric evaluations by state-appointed experts - at a cost of more than $600,000 to the state Department of Human Services. Holmes was ultimately found guilty of murdering 12 people and trying to murder 70 more in the July 2012 attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater; he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in August.

While the case prompted public debates about the cost of the death penalty and mental health evaluations, the single biggest expense that's been reported was for providing victims' assistance services. The Arapahoe County district attorney's office spent nearly $1.2 million on salaries for victims' advocates, travel expenses for victims to attend the trial and other costs. All of those costs were covered by a federal grant.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office published its close-to-final cost figures last week, said the costs were about in line with what he expected. In addition to the federal grant, the state government appropriated about $500,000 to cover trial-related costs for the district attorney's office. He said more than half of what his office spent on the case was spent before the trial even began one year ago this month, and he rejected the criticism that seeking the death penalty ballooned the trial's price tag. Instead, Brauchler said the case was expensive because of the number of victims involved.

"He made that many victims," Brauchler said, referring to Holmes. "That's not a function of anything I picked. He made those victims."

Costs of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial:

--18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, not including staff salaries: $1.73 million ($1.17 million covered by grant for victims' assistance services and $543,000 covered by state funding)

--Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, not including regular-time staff salaries: $735,000 ($403,000 covered by grant)

--Colorado Judicial Branch: $108,696

--Colorado Department of Human Services (for psychiatric evaluations): $612,000

Source: Denver Post, April 20, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Idaho County commissioners take stand against death penalty

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Texas: Reginald Blanton executed

China sentences ten to death in front of cheering crowd of thousands

30-year-old Chinese inmate bids farewell to daughter, wife and mother before execution

USA: Executions, Death Sentences Up Slightly in 2017

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

Japan hangs 2 inmates; first executions since July

Death penalty cases of 2017 featured botched executions, claims of innocence, 'flawed' evidence

Virginia Governor commutes death sentence of killer found mentally incompetent to be executed