The Hidden Death Tax: The Secret Cost of Seeking Execution in California

Publication Date: March 2008

Publisher: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California

Author(s): Natasha Minsker

Research Area: Human rights; Justice; Social conditions

Keywords: death penalty; criminal justice

Type: Report

Coverage: California


"The Hidden Death Tax" is a comprehensive report on the costs of California's s death penalty, analyzing for the first time records of actual costs in California death penalty trials. The report demonstrates that while California tax payers spend well over $100 million every year on the death penalty. While the costs of the death penalty at the state level may be readily identified, the costs at the county level remain largely hidden from the public. "The Hidden Death Tax" reviews the records of a sample of homicide trials where actual costs were recorded. These records reveal that death penalty trials in California have cost as much as $10.9 million, and have had substantial effects on local prosecutors offices and law enforcement agencies. "The Hidden Death Tax" shows that the death penalty costs counties at least $22 million more per year than seeking death in prison, and that local county agencies suffer every time the death penalty is sought.