An Alarming Price Tag: The Wasteful, Inefficient Government Program

The death penalty’s complexity and finality make it much more costly than life without parole.  Capital cases necessitate an initial three-part trial: the guilt phase, sentencing phase, and review by a three-judge panel. All this takes place before the constitutionally mandated appeals process. Capital punishment is a bloated government program that has clogged our courts, delayed justice for victims’ families, and devoured millions of taxpayer dollars that could be used for more effective crime prevention measures.


Every tax dollar wasted on the death penalty is another dollar diverted from vital services for Nebraskans

“The millions of dollars we’ve spent on the death penalty would have been much better invested in more police officers, additional resources or training for our current officers. The cheaper, more intelligent alternative for our state is life without the possibility of parole.” Captain Jim Davidsaver, Lincoln Police Department“Repealing death penalty would make us “smart on crime’ “ Lincoln Journal Star, November 23, 2014


Shockingly, Nebraska officials can’t account for exactly how much tax money is spent each year on the death penalty.

Nebraska, like many states, has no system to accurately track how much it spends at the local or state level on the death penalty. “If the death penalty actually saved money, one might imagine that the records would be meticulous.” Jim Oppedahl, former Montana court administrator, “Montana can’t afford the death penalty,” Helena Independent Record, February 2, 2009


All evidence points to a tremendously expensive and broken government program.

  • Between 1973 and 2007, Nebraska taxpayers paid for 103 cases in which the prosecution sought the death penalty, only 31 of which resulted in a death sentence. More than half of those death sentences were reversed, and only 3 have resulted in an execution.[1]
  • Richardson County nearly went bankrupt, had to borrow money and mortgage its ambulances to pay legal expenses for the two death penalty cases it prosecuted.[2]
  • One recent Nebraska death penalty case cost $750,000 for the sentencing phase alone because the defendant pled guilty, meaning there was no trial and no cost associated with determining guilt or innocence.[3]


Studies conducted across the country show striking consistencies on the price of the death penalty

“The study that was done [in Maryland] computed that the cost of a death penalty case is about $3 million from beginning to end, and the cost of a life without parole case, about $1.1 million… Over the course of Nebraska’s death penalty, they have had about 35 death sentences, so now what you are figuring the state has spent in the realm of $100 [million]…But of course, that hasn’t resulted in 35 executions. In fact, it’s resulted in three executions. And so now you start to see where some of the large numbers with respect to the cost of the punishment come in; that is, what is this state paying per execution? Because without an execution, the death penalty is somewhat meaningless.” Richard Dieter, Executive Director, Death Penalty Information CenterTestimony to the Nebraska Judiciary Committee, March 13, 2013


Is it worth our investment? Life without parole saves us millions

Vote to Retain the Unicameral’s vote to eliminate the death penalty in our state.


  1. Nebraska Commission  on Public Policy study of Nebraska Capital Cases, 1973-2007.
  2. Omaha World Herald, “Spat brews over public defenders”, by Paul Hammel , January 31, 2012
  3. James Mowbray, Chief Counsel, Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, testimony before the Nebraska Judiciary Committee, February 1,