The death penalty costs significantly more than permanent imprisonment.
The most comprehensive study yet conducted on the cost of capital punishment found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million more per execution than the a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of life imprisonment.
[Death Penalty Info Center]
Georgia Facts on Cost
There has never been a complete study of the cost of Georgia's death penalty. However, the recent case of Brian Nichols illustrates the huge drain capital punishment places on the state's resources. According to this report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the trial phase alone cost over $3 million.
But why does pursuing the death penalty cost more than life imprisonment?
The data from Maryland in the graph below helps explain the increased cost of pursuing a death sentence. Trials cost more when the stakes are higher because of more careful jury selection and more experts and investigators. The trial is followed by a lengthy penalty phase, state appeals, and federal appeals, all of which incur more costs. Finally, the costs of maintaining a death row and execution chamber makes housing death row inmates more expensive than those sentenced to life without parole.