Thursday, September 26, 2013

Philadelphia death penalty case costs $10 million and counting

A review of records, as well interviews with lawyers and court officials, indicates the public price tag for the federal government to investigate, convict, and detain Kaboni Savage easily tops $10 million, making it among the costliest prosecutions in Philadelphia history.

Savage gunned down one man, ordered the killing of five others, and directed the 2004 rowhouse firebombing that killed four children and two women, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Court-appointed lawyers for Savage and his codefendants have logged more than $3.3 million in fees and expenses - a record for a federal case in Philadelphia - and are still billing.

The defense total is a fraction of the prosecution cost, according to one expert. Government lawyers, FBI agents, and staff spent years building the case against Savage, at times working on nothing else.
The jury selection and murder-racketeering trial in Judge R. Barclay Surrick's courtroom lasted seven months.

The court shelled out $325,000 in per-diem payments and travel expenses for 1,100 prospective jurors and the 18 eventually picked for the trial, according to information compiled by court officials.
Juror lunches and snacks topped $24,000. Transcripts cost $249,000.

On most days, a half-dozen U.S. marshals ringed the courtroom and escorted the defendants, jurors, and witnesses. Additional security and travel costs exceeded $283,000, the Marshals Service said.
And the price of imprisoning Savage is at least $31,000 a year for each year he lives, prison officials say. That could be decades. Savage is 38.

"Frankly, no one should be surprised to see it cost this much," said Jon B. Gould, an American University law professor who has studied defense costs in federal capital cases. "If we're going to do it right, so that [death-penalty] convictions are accurate, it's going to cost money."

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