Idaho is seeking the death penalty against Bryan Kohberger. Here’s why that’s a bad idea

To do so would be a major break from logic.

The case of the Idaho college murders continues to captivate the nation. Despite a gag order by the judge in the case, the trial of Bryan Kohberger—who stands accused of murdering the four students—is poised to be a media blockbuster.

Idaho prosecutors have announced their intention to seek the death penalty, and as Fox News has reported, that means the process could cost Idaho taxpayers upwards of $1 million more than if they just sought life in prison without parole.

That’s actually the going rate for a death penalty trial.The death penalty typically costs at least $1 million more than the next most expensive sentence on the table, life in prison without parole (LWOP), and that’s per case. It costs that much more whether or not the jury actually gives a death penalty verdict or not—which by the way, since LWOP became an option in most places by the early 2000s, juries commonly vote no on death penalty sentences. (That’s because most sane people have a healthy fear of getting it wrong and killing an innocent person.)

A death penalty trial is actually four times more expensive than the appellate process. And anyone who suggests that the appeals process should be shortened is totally off-base. Even with the protections we have in place, one person has already been exonerated for every eight executions. We need more scrutiny on the system, more opportunities for wrongful convictions to come to light, not less.

When we talk about expenses though, we have to be clear to reiterate why they matter. While progressives openly love government spending, conservatives and libertarians claim to be for limited government and to care about fiscal responsibility. But let’s be frank, for many they only care about such things when they don’t like the program at hand—and many still support the death penalty.

Yet principled supporters of limited government and fiscal responsibility understand that consistently supporting both values means opposing the death penalty.

For one, the government can always get things wrong, and frequently does. We shouldn’t want to give it the power to deliver the mail, much less kill people.

It’s actually astonishing to me that some conservatives can claim the FBI is corrupt and the January 6 protestors are being mistreated by the justice system, and then in the same breath, simp for giving that justice system the power to kill you.

But that’s not the only break in their chain of logic here. There are finite resources in a system. Every dollar the government has it must collect from us, directly or indirectly. And when they do collect it, it should only be used towards ends that actually uphold our rights and protect our person and our property—the sole legitimate purpose of government.

The death penalty does not do that. It is not a deterrent to crime, and in fact, studies show states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than those who use it. Why? Well, states without the death penalty aren’t wasting $1 million plus, per case, each year for the security theater of capital punishment. That’s a lot of tax dollars that can instead be directed towards actually solving and preventing violent crime.

Police are pretty bad at both of those as a whole. Even the FBI, the most elite branch of policing, has homicide clearance rates of roughly 60% on average. It only gets worse than there for all other crimes and across all other divisions of law enforcement.

At the end of the day, the death penalty is a feelings-based response to tragedy, and while that’s normal, we shouldn’t be using feelings to set public policy. Instead we should be using common sense, logic, and fiscal responsibility—none of which the death penalty has in its favor.

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Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer and co-founder of BASEDPolitics. She's also the host of the BASEDPolitics podcast and an experienced political activist.