Alabama Department of Corrections

ALABAMA – Expense and execution – Death-penalty cost issue resurges as state struggles

May 30, 2012 Source :

As many states look for ways to reduce spending, a battle is brewing between supporters and opponents of the death penalty.

Opponents contend states could save millions of dollars by abolishing the death penalty. Proponents argue the death penalty is needed to punish defendants convicted of heinous homicides, even when it means decades of paying attorneys to argue the merits of a death sentence and for housing an inmate, such as former Sheffield resident Tommy Arthur.

Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw, chief of Alabama’s death penalty litigators, said he is unsure how much the state has spent attempting to carry out Arthur’s execution, which was first ordered in 1983.

“It’s been so long, I’m not sure if anyone knows how much the state has spent keeping Tommy Arthur on death row all these years,” Crenshaw said.

Arthur, 70, has been on death row for 29 years for the 1982 murder-for-hire killing of Muscle Shoals resident Troy Wicker. His conviction was overturned twice on technicalities. The state Supreme Court has set an execution date for Arthur five times only to have it halted when defense attorneys raised legal issues, most recently in March when they objected to Alabama’s use of the drug pentobarbital in executions.

Arthur continues to maintain his innocence.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said the agency does not keep tabs on the amount of money spent on legal fees for death row inmates, only the cost of housing them, which is now about $43 per day. He said the department does not separate the cost of housing inmates on death row from the expense of keeping them in other areas of a prison.

Alabama has 101 men and four women on death row. The average age of the death row inmates is 41 and they have been there an average of 11 years and 7 months, Corbett said.

Richard Deiter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, said states typically do not keep track of the amount of money spent on a single inmate from the time they are sentenced to death until an execution takes place.

“There’s probably not anyone in Alabama who knows exactly how much money has been spent keeping Mr. Arthur on death row, but there is no doubt it has been very expensive,” Deiter said. “All states need to take a serious look at how much they are spending on death penalty cases and decide if it is money well spent.”

Crime victims groups and death penalty proponents contend the cost of capital punishment is offset by the value it provides in deterring homicides and punishing criminals convicted of the most heinous murders.

Deiter contends the money spent on executions should be used to prevent crime.

“The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime,” Deiter said. “Some of the states with the highest number of executions also have the highest homicide rates. Studies have shown it can cost more than $30 million to carry out an execution. Only one in 10 death penalty cases results in an execution and when you combine the legal fees for the appeals of all of those defendants, it makes that one execution very costly. That money could be better spent on hiring more police officers, installing better lighting in high-crime areas, providing education aimed at preventing crime and doing other things to make sure crimes do not happen.”

Miriam Shehane, executive director of Montgomery-based Victims of Crime and Leniency, disagrees.

“I don’t care how much it costs to execute someone, we need the death penalty,” she said. “The death penalty opponents want to argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment. My daughter was abducted, then raped for hours and shot repeatedly. Was that not cruel and unusual punishment? The punishment needs to fit the crimes and for some murders, the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment.”

Shehane’s daughter Quenette was kidnapped and killed in Birmingham in 1976.

Three men were convicted of her murder. One was executed, another was sentenced to life in prison without parole and the other sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Jones said he never considers the potential cost of incarceration and future legal expenses when deciding if a defendant convicted of capital murder should be sentenced to death. He said that decision is based on the jury’s recommendation and the circumstances of the homicide.


When a defendant is convicted of capital murder in Alabama, the jury then hears additional evidence before recommending the death penalty or life in prison without parole as punishment. The judge is not obligated to follow the recommendation when imposing the punishment.

“We don’t need to put someone to death because it’s cheaper than keeping them in prison for the rest of their life,” she said. “At the same time, we shouldn’t not put someone to death because it might be more expensive than keeping them in prison. You don’t make a life or death decision based on economics.”

Jones has imposed the death penalty twice.

He sentenced David Dewayne Riley Jr. to death in 2007 for the 2005 shooting death of Florence package store clerk Scott Michael Kirtley. He sentenced Riley, 27, to death again in 2011 after the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his first conviction on a technicality. The jury at both trials recommended that Riley receive the death sentence for the execution-style shooting.

Jones said the possible cost of sending Riley to death row never crossed his mind before carrying out the recommendation of the juries.

“The Alabama Legislature may someday decide we can no longer afford to send people to death row,” Jones said. “That’s a decision they would have to make and until they do, I am going to continue to carry out the recommendations of juries who say someone deserves the death penalty when the circumstances of a murder warrant sending a defendant to death row.”

Political battle

Shehane said the Legislature will face a tough battle from her organization and other capital punishment proponents if it ever attempts to abolish the death penalty in Alabama as a way to save money.

Deiter said with the cost of defending death sentences in the appeals process and even the expense of purchasing the drugs used in executions increasing, some states might have to replace capital punishment with a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the hope of parole as a way to punish defendants convicted of the most brutal homicides.

“All states with the death penalty (will have) to decide if it is worth the expense when they are having to cut back in so many other areas, including courts and police,” Deiter said.

For Alabama, Shehane said, the money spent sending defendants convicted of capital murder to death row and carrying out their execution is worth the expense.


Top 10 states for number of inmates on death row as of Jan. 1:

  • California 703
  • Florida 402
  • Texas 312
  • Pennsylvania 211
  • Alabama 202
  • North Carolina 166
  • Ohio 151
  • Arizona 153
  • Georgia 99
  • Louisiana 89

Source: Death Penalty Information Center


Daily inmate maintenance costs in Alabama

  • 2000 $25.47
  • 2002 $26.07
  • 2004 $27,92
  • 2006 $36.67
  • 2008 $41.47
  • 2010 $42.30

Source: Alabama Department of Corrections


Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming.
Source: Death Penalty Information Center


State Total 2011 2012
Texas 482 14 5
Virginia 109 1 0
Oklahoma 99 2 3
Florida 73 2 2
Missouri 68 1 0
Alabama 55 6 0
Georgia 52 4 0
Ohio 47 5 1
North Carolina 43 0 0
South Carolina 43 1 0

Source: Death Penalty Information Center

Alabama – High cost of death penalty

april 11, 2012  source :

With states like Alabama having to slash services over monetary woes, it’s an appropriate time to reconsider the high costs of the death penalty.

Many TimesDaily readers have expressed the opinion that Sheffield native and death row inmate Tommy Arthur has been in the news much too often in recent months.

They are tired of the seemingly endless appeals process that has allowed a convicted killer to remain on death row for 29 years. Since Arthur was sentenced in 1983, the courts have upheld his conviction in a murder-for-hire plot involving Muscle Shoals resident Troy Wicker. But at the same time, Arthur has avoided execution five times through the appeals process, most recently in late March.

One reader asked how much the efforts to execute Arthur have cost compared to simply sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. That’s a good question, considering the dire budget situation facing the state.

The answer is not simple, but by comparing Alabama to other states we can get a rough idea of the price.

The annual cost to house one state inmate in 2009 was about $15,118, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. If 70-year-old Arthur reached the lifespan of the average U.S. male, he would serve a total of 35 years for capital murder at a cost to the state of about $529,130. That does not include the cost of his initial trial.

A report from the Death Penalty Information Center offers what it says is a “very conservative” estimate of $30 million to reach a single execution. This amount factors in the millions wasted on cases where there is never an actual execution.

One specific example is Maryland, where a legislative commission recommended abolishing the death penalty after a study showed the state was paying $37 million per execution.

Much of the costs involved in executing an inmate revolves around exhausting every effort to ensure the person is guilty. As DNA evidence has proved in recent years, the state doesn’t always get it right. The fact that Alabama has no law ensuring access to DNA testing for people convicted of capital crimes and does not require that biological evidence be preserved throughout the capital inmate’s incarceration is among several moral concerns.

But beyond those moral issues remains the nagging thought that revoking the death penalty could make a substantial difference as the state faces a $330 million budget shortfall.

With Arthur and 198 other inmates on death row, the state Legislature should undertake an in-depth study of the cost specific to Alabama’s death penalty.


Thomas Douglas Arthur new execution date has been set for today at 6pm (Stay)

march 29, 2012 source :

A new execution date has been set for death row inmate Thomas Douglas Arthur.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections say Arthur will be put to death on Thursday, March 29th at 6 pm. That will happen at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

Arthur has served more than 24 years on Alabama’s death row. He was convicted in the contract killing of businessman Troy Wicker in 1982.

Thomas  Douglas had challenged his scheduled execution by lethal injection, claiming the state’s use of a new anesthesia did not completely sedate inmates before the lethal drugs were administered. He said the practice was cruel and unusual.

The court on Wednesday declined a request by Alabama’s attorney general’s office to reconsider a March 21 decision allowing Arthur to go forward with his challenge.

Spokeswoman Joy Patterson said the Alabama attorney general’s office was not going to appeal the court decision Wednesday.

State attorneys have pointed to successful executions where the drug — pentobarbital — was used.

The court last week decided to put Arthur’s execution on hold while the challenge was heard. It marked the fifth time that Arthur — who has maintained his innocence for more than 29 years while on death row — was spared execution.

According to court documents filed by the State of Alabama, Troy Wicker’s wife, Judy, testified that she had a sexual relationship with Arthur and paid him $10,000 to kill her husband.

11th court read the docket click here

Thomas Douglas Arthur  Website

case and old post  click here