Nevada bill would create death penalty cost study

CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers want to take a closer look at the cost of keeping the death penalty in the state’s criminal punishment arsenal.

Heard by the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on Friday, Assembly Bill 444 seeks an interim study on the costs of the death penalty.

“It’s meant to be dispassionate, rational, logical,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas. “It’s not meant to cater to the anti-death penalty abolitionists, or the folks who think the death penalty is the best thing around.”

A report of the findings would be submitted to the 2015 Legislature, which could lead to more bills, Ohrenschall said.

He said he expects the results will show that the costs of death penalty cases are much higher than most people expect.

“It’s not fair to our legislators and our constituents not to know the cost,” he said. “Legislators, if you get that it’s so expensive, might not want to have it; not from a moral or religious ground, but from government efficiency and our limited resources.”

The committee’s meeting Thursday on AB444 happened the same day Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a measure repealing his state’s death penalty. Now 32 states have the death penalty and 10 people have been executed so far this year— 47 people were executed in 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

There are 83 people on death row in Nevada. The last execution was in 2006 and there are no other executions imminent.

Ohrenschall might introduce a bill limiting or abolishing the death penalty in the Silver State next session depending on the results of this study — if it happens, he said.

An interim study before this session was approved in 2011, but was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The new bill adds specific language to address Sandoval’s concerns from two years ago, Ohrenschall said.

For one thing, the audit would include any financial savings from the death penalty to ensure a fair study.

The committee took no action on the bill late Thursday.

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