An Alarming Price Tag: The Wasteful, Inefficient Government Program

Many people are surprised to learn that the death penalty’s complexity and finality make it much more costly than life without parole. Capital punishment is a bloated government program that has clogged our courts, delayed justice for victims’ families, and devoured millions of crime-fighting dollars.

  • Between 1973 and 2007, Nebraska taxpayers paid for 103 cases in which the prosecution sought the death penalty, only 31 of which resulted in a death sentence. More than half of those death sentences were reversed, and only 3 have resulted in an execution.1
  • Richardson County nearly went bankrupt, had to borrow money and mortgage its ambulances to pay legal expenses for the two death penalty cases it prosecuted.2
  • One recent Nebraska death penalty case cost $750,000 for the sentencing phase alone because the defendant pled guilty, meaning there was no trial and no cost associated with determining guilt or innocence.3
  • In Kansas, the cost of defense alone for 26 death penalty trials, 12 of which resulted in a death sentence, was $19.9 million through February 2009. Kansas, which enacted the death penalty in 1994, has executed no one.4cost pyramid




  1. Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy study of Nebraska Capital Cases, 1973-2007.
  2. Omaha World Herald, “Spat brews over public defenders,” by Paul Hammel, January 31, 2012
  3. James Mowbray, Chief Counsel, Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, testimony before the Nebraska Judiciary Committee, February 1, 2008.
  4. Senator Carolyn McGinn, “Death Penalty Too Costly, Not Deterrent,” Wichita Eagle, March 1, 2009.