Sages of the New Covenant
Ninety-five percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford their own attorney to represent them. They are forced to use inexperienced, underpaid court-appointed attorneys. Some defendants in capital cases have been represented by attorneys who were drunk or sleeping during the trial.
The fees provided by most states are extremely low and never attract competent lawyers to offer their services. Though fees vary from High Court to another, they are largely inadequate. For example the fee prescribed by the Kolkata High Court is Rs 60/- per day for senior lawyer and Rs 30/- per day for juniors for appearing in session’s court. For districts outside Kolkata the fees is reduced to Rs 40/- Rs 20/-. It is also pertinent that the stated fees are for a "full day" where the cases are heard for more than 3 hours. While a hearing falls shorts of 3 hours, half the fee is paid. On an average, Legal Aid lawyers are paid Rs 900 in Bombay Rs 500/- in Chennai and Kolkata and Rs 1200/to Rs 2000/- - in New Delhi, for a death penalty case in the trail court, which is about the same for proceedings in High courts. In Supreme Court appeals, Rs 4000/- is paid.
These fees, stagnant for decades, would not cover conveyance and miscellaneous expenses. With every Pay Commission revision, there need to be revision in the money spend on this social security measures; at least this money has to be aligned to the Purchasing Power Parity / Cost of Index. By keeping a low legal-aid fee, the judiciary is indirectly denying justice to those who are economically marginalized.
"People will say we can't put a price on justice, but in fact, we do put a price on justice when we are not able to give our district attorneys, our police departments, our attorney general the funding they need."
- Gail Chasey, Democratic Rep.
Most people don't realize that carrying out one death sentence costs 2-5 times more than keeping that same criminal in prison for the rest of his life. How can this be? It has to do with the endless appeals, additional required procedures, and legal wrangling that drag the process out. It's not unusual for a prisoner to be on death row for 15-20 years. Judges, attorneys, court reporters, clerks, and court facilities all require a substantial investment by the taxpayers. Do we really have the resources to waste?
In India, we do not have much statistics, except that the Government of India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), spends Rs.10,000 per person every year on each. All of the studies on the cost of capital punishment in US conclude it is much more expensive than a system with life sentences as the maximum penalty.
Based on the studied made in USA, one could say: NO, as death penalty costs a great deal more. The death penalty costs millions more than a sentence of life without parole. Taxpayers' money could be used more efficiently on crime prevention programs and police, because, death penalty trials require a lot more work. The appeals process is longer and more expensive. If a nation could think out of box, the prisoners' time could be used meaningfully in prevention or education programs, even from prison. Anthony Mungin was sentenced to death and incarcerated at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida (USA) since February 23rd, 1993. He is involved in an educational program with the Victoria’s Academy. The following are the words of Mungin:
"My heart goes out to troublesome youngsters because I 'see' myself in them. And it is my heart to do it. I can explain my heart’s desire to help youngsters understand how wrong decisions can lead them down a path that can lead to prison. I could influence and encourage them to make better choices and strive to further their education. I could use my past mistakes as examples. I could inspire them to believe in themselves and pursue legitimate careers. I could do it, if given the opportunity, because I know how to relate to troublesome youngsters: I’ve been there. Perhaps I could persuade the adults presiding over organizations created to help youngsters or juvenile correctional facilities out there to give me a chance to work or speak with these kids (…). Once they see how the kids respond to me, they [the adults] will be impressed…”
Capital cases are far more expensive than cases seeking life imprisonment without possibility of parole. In Washington, taxpayers pay nearly $800,000 in additional costs beyond what is spent on a non-death penalty trial. In a time of fiscal crisis, millions of dollars are diverted from other services to pay for the exorbitant price of the death penalty. Rather than paying for the death penalty in a few high-profile cases, these resources could be used to help victims’ families and better fund police departments and crime labs to solve cold cases.
Resources that are currently used on capital cases should be reinvested in programs that reduce crime and violence and provide assistance to victims of crime.
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Sages of the New Covenant