A group of conservative politicians and officials is joining the call to abolish the death penalty in Montana, citing exorbitant costs and a recent court decision that found the state’s lethal injection procedure unconstitutional.
“The ruling shines a bright light on the ineffectiveness and inefficiencies associated with capital punishment,” said Steve Dogiakos, director of Montana Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “Couple that with strong conservative leadership on the issue, and we are optimistic that we will abolish the death penalty in 2013.”
In 2009 and again in 2011, the state legislature took up measures to abolish the death penalty, which were passed by the Senate, but never made it out of the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee. The state legislature can once again consider the issue in 2013, and complying with the court’s ruling on execution protocol will likely also require action by the legislature.
The court ruling by Montana District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock halted executions until the state fixes several procedural issues, including designating someone with more medical training to determine whether the inmate being executed is unconscious, and requiring the person who administers the injection to have experience with IVs.
Rather than pass a limited bill to comply with this ruling, Montana Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is urging the legislature to use this as an opportunity to eliminate the death penalty entirely, given that past efforts to “fix” the death penalty have failed.
As the conservative political group points out on its website, conservatives around the country have expressed concern about capital punishment, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TEX) and columnist George Will.
No comprehensive study has been conducted on the costs of Montana’s death penalty, but the sponsors of the 2011 abolition bill estimated that capital punishment costs six to seven times more than life in prison without parol, while previous studies in other states have estimated that the death penalty costs up to ten times more than life sentences. A new study in California, where a proposal to eliminate the death penalty is on the ballot this November, found that capital punishment would cost the state between $5.4 and $7.7 billion more between now and 2050 than if those in death row were sentenced to life in prison without parole. The study cited the costs of individual appeals and lethal injection litigation, as well higher incarceration costs due to increased security and other requirements.