Recently, Dan Peitzmeyer of Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona debated Maricopa County Bill Montgomery on “Arizona Horizon,” a news show on KAET Channel 8. Both gentlemen did a commendable job in presenting their respective positions.
However, it was disconcerting when Mr. Montgomery flippantly claimed that the total costs for prosecuting Jody Arias was merely $133,000. His assertion is grossly misleading.
Mr. Montgomery previously refused to disclose how much the prosecution has cost his office, and has provided no documentation to support this $133,000 sum, despite the fact that it’s public record.
I urge Mr. Montgomery to allow access to the records of his office so the taxpayers can know how much of their money was spent while pursuing the death penalty (unsuccessfully for Ms. Arias), in this case.
The total prosecution costs are still not in. More invoices are waiting to be submitted and the prosecutor’s “paltry” sum of $133,000 was only for travel expenses and witness fees. It does not include the costs of any of the prosecution’s staff as typically, each attorney is supported by an entire team of staff including investigators, paralegals, secretaries, clerks, law clerks, victim witness staff, etc.
Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez was not an army of one in a case that has gone on since June 4, 2008. Costs were accumulated by the County Attorney’s Office throughout those seven years.
The case still is not over. Defense attorneys will appeal and the state will oppose, so costs for both sides will continue to rise. Also not included are the costs to the jail, law enforcement, courts and the two juries.
From a fiscal point of view, we should be thankful that Ms. Arias did not receive the death penalty, especially in light to the massive cuts in spending because of our current fiscal crisis. Had she been sentenced to death, there would have been costs to the Department of Corrections, Attorney General’s Office, court-appointed attorneys for all appeals and post-conviction relief petitions, costs associated with appeals and post-conviction relief at the federal level and costs to the federal courts and costs to transport the defendant back and forth to all of the court proceedings. All of these costs would have been paid by taxpayers.
The Arizona Republic estimated that Arias’s defense alone cost taxpayers $3 million — twice what it is estimated it would have cost the state to lock her up without parole if she lived 60 more years (EJ Montini column, March 12, 2015).
It is time that we, the taxpayers, are fully informed as to how much the imposition of the death penalty costs us. I urge citizens, county officials and the Legislature to demand that Mr. Montgomery disclose the true cost to taxpayers. It is time we have a comprehensive study to discover how much of our hard-earned dollars are going toward the dubious expenditure of seeking the death penalty.
Whether you think the death penalty is morally wrong or right, the one thing that we can agree on is that these massive expenditures could be better utilized to benefit all of us, instead of being used to seek the punishment of one.
• Tempe attorney Chuck Laroue, Esq., is a board member for Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona. His office is located at 7650 S. McClintock Road, Suite 103. Reach him toll free at (866) 274-4395 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.