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Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Legal expense

May 21, 2003

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To the editor:

Craig Tucker's May 15 letter claims that the extra expense of the death penalty is due to "all the endless legal appeals." This is a common misunderstanding. In reality, the moment a case is determined to be potentially capital and there is a suspect, the extra costs begin.

These cases have more pretrial preparation and motions filed. Jury selection must include questioning potential jurors about their views on the death penalty. A Duke University study estimated capital trials were three to five times longer than nondeath-penalty trials. There is a second phase to the trial if the person is found guilty of capital murder.

It's easy for death penalty supporters to attack the appeals process. But the importance of the appeals process has been reiterated again this month in Missouri in the case of Joe Amrine. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned his conviction because of credible evidence of innocence. The state's attorney who argued the case claimed that there came a time when, if you've had a fair trial, questions of innocence and guilt didn't matter. Had the supporters of expedited appeals had their way, Missouri would have killed an innocent man.

Donna Schneweis,

Topeka

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