Just how much does the death penalty cost?
It’s no secret that the death penalty is expensive. A 2003 Kansas Legislative Post Audit study found that death penalty cases can cost up to 70% more to try than cases that seek a non-death sentence, such as life without parole.
But a Topeka Capital-Journal article published August 6th shed some light on just how much a death penalty case can cost, and who ends up footing the bill.
The article covers the costs to Osage County for the trial of Kraig Kahler, who is charged with capital murder in the deaths of four people.
Osage County residents are paying higher taxes to cover the costs of the trial, which will total nearly $300,000. Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said the County Commission had to raise property taxes in 2010 to specifically cover the expense of the Kahler trial.
A breakdown of the $260,000 bill shows just what Osage County residents are buying with their tax dollars:
- A $60,000 upgrade to the courtroom
- Travel and lodging expenses for out-of-state witnesses
- Juror fees and compensation for residents reporting for jury duty
- Overtime for security at the courthouse from the Osage County Sheriff’s Department
Osage County residents are paying the price now. As long as Kansas has the death penalty any Kansas community could end up footing the bill for a death penalty trial.
The deaths of Karen, Emily and Lauren Kahler, and Dorothy Wight were tragic. But pursuing the death penalty for Kahler is risking Osage County’s public safety. Study after study shows that the high costs of the death penalty leads not only to higher taxes, but drastic cuts from already stretched public safety budgets.
With the state and counties facing growing budget shortfalls across the board, now is the time to stand up for smart public policy. We should replace the death penalty with life without parole, which will serve justice and keep Kansans safe without risking cuts to public safety or straining county budgets.
James Kraig Kahler has been found guilty of capital murder in the death of four family members.