The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland

March 2008 / Abell-Supported Research / Criminal Justice and Addiction

New Urban Institute study finds that each death sentence costs three times as much as comparable non-death penalty cases.

In 1978, the death penalty was reinstated in Maryland as a sentencing option for a defendant convicted of felony homicide. Between 1978 and September 1999, there were 1,227 homicides where the death penalty was a sentencing option. Of those, 1,136 cases resulted in a guilty verdict in the initial trial or through a plea agreement. In 162 cases, prosecutors filed a “death notice” seeking the death penalty. Fifty-six resulted in a death sentence, although the vast majority of those sentences were ultimately overturned. Since 1978, five people in Maryland have been executed. Five others remain on death row and are awaiting execution. In this study, we estimate the lifetime costs of processing these death eligible cases.