Nebraska’s attorney general disputes a study which claims the death penalty costs Nebraska $14.6 million dollars a year.
Attorney General Doug Peterson claims the study conducted by Economist Ernie Goss grossly overstates the cost of the death penalty.
“We know that number’s not accurate. We felt it was imperative Nebraska voters have accurate information,” Peterson tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Peterson is especially critical of the suggestion that the appeals process in capital punishment cases add up to big costs for the Nebraska taxpayer.
Peterson says his office handles 500 criminal appeals each year; less than one percent are death penalty cases. Further, he says county prosecutors on average handle less than one capital punishment case a year.
Though Peterson concedes death penalty appeals require more time and effort than appeals in other cases, he says it doesn’t cost the taxpayer more, because his lawyers receive yearly salaries to work on whatever cases cross their desks.
The attorney general claims the study grossly overstates the cost of the death penalty, noting that $14.6 million exceeds the total combined annual budgets of his office and the State Public Defender’s Office.
Retain A Just Nebraska, the group working to uphold the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty, issued a news release with a statement by Goss in response to the Attorney General.
“My 35 page study shows there is a $14.6 million price tag to having a death penalty in Nebraska. I analyzed actual spending data reported by Nebraska justice agencies to the U.S. Census Bureau.” Goss said in a written statement released by Retain A Just Nebraska.
Peterson faults the study for relying on data from California, Texas, and Florida.
Peterson rejects suggestions that by countering the economic study, he’s wading into political waters.
“If I remained quiet on this matter and Nebraska voters actually believed it costs $14.6 million, I’d be failing to do my job as Attorney General, because voters deserve accurate information.”
Peterson says the state will abide by whatever the voters decide in November.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]