Monday, October 24, 2011

Moore County Prosecutor's Decisions Cost State Big

There's been some press lately about the Robert Stewart capital murder case and how much it cost. Apparently, there has been reporting that it cost the taxpayers $550,000.

This figure comes from the court side and the defense side. The articles have largely left out the cost from the state's end--in law enforcement and district attorney assets that could have been spent doing something other than this case.

District Attorney Krueger
But nonetheless, there is an even bigger story not being told here. That figure, of $550,000, was driven almost entirely by District Attorney Maureen Krueger's decision to seek death. As a general matter, cases like this can be resolved at any point by plea. The trial was almost certainly moved by the state's refusal to negotiate. Further, the need for it to be a capital trial, versus a non-capital trial, was entirely within the state's discretion.

The story we're not being told is that that $550,000 figure is largely attributable to poor state decision-making. I mean, they didn't even get a 1st degree verdict out of this case. Is anyone surprised? People simply do not walk into a nursing home and shoot a bunch of old people when they are in their right mind...

I imagine the cost of this case could have been avoided by an early plea to the same result--a lifetime in prison--that came at the end of this trial. That decision was one that rested with the state.

This experience is repeated again and again across the state. A 2009 study by Duke Professor Phil Cook found that N.C. could save more that $11 million a year if the state stopped seeking death. And that's just in defense costs.

This doesn't include prosecution, law enforcement and court resource--all of which could be used to have more cops on the street preventing crimes and more prosecution of other crimes.

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