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Study: In Oregon, Death Sentence Quadruples Cost Of Case


The sign at the entrance to the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore.

The sign at the entrance to the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Imposing a death sentence in Oregon can increase the cost of a case by a factor of four, according to a new study from Lewis & Clark Law School.

Professor Aliza Kaplan compared aggravated murders for which the perpetrators did — and did not — end up on death row.

Looking at data from the Oregon Department of Corrections, the state Department of Justice and the Oregon Public Defenders Office, she found a death sentence quadrupled the cost of a case.

But she said, it’s a conservative estimate because many costs are hidden.

“For example, the courts and the district attorneys, who play huge parts in criminal justice and the death penalty in Oregon, there’s no way to understand their costs with regards to the death penalty,” she said. “So we’re missing huge parts of the cost.”

Kaplan says researchers haven’t even been able to pin down the average cost of a death penalty case.

Two Oregonians have been put to death since 1984, when Oregon last reauthorized the death penalty. Both voluntarily dropped their legal appeals.

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