If prosecutors decide the Colorado Springs accused killer, Robert Dear Jr., should suffer the death penalty, it will cost Colorado taxpayers millions.
Denver7 Investigator John Ferrugia has, for the first time, obtained information from the state offices tasked with providing a defense to the accused who cannot defend themselves.
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Taxpayers in the state of Colorado have spent nearly $33 million defending suspects in death penalty cases over the past 13 years, according to records obtained by Denver7.
There are two public offices in the state that provide defense services for suspects: the Office of the State Public Defender (OPSD) and the Alternative Defense Council (ADC). ADC provides defense services when the State Public Defender is found to have a conflict of interest, or when there is more than one defendant in a single case.
Between 2002 and December of 2015, OPSD said it has spent about $6.3 million on 10 death penalty cases. That cost includes expenses and salaries. OPSD said it did not hire any staff members specifically for any particular death penalty cases.
The ADC said it has paid representatives at the trial level, for appeals, post-conviction and miscellaneous legal representation about $26.2 million on behalf of 17 individual defendants.
It is unclear how many cases were handled at some point by both offices, because neither office could not provide records related to specific cases, citing Colorado Supreme Court rules forbidding the release of individual case information without client consent. But in some cases, the trial defense is provided by OPSD while appeal arguments are handled by ADC. So the total number of cases involved is fewer than 27.
The most recent high-profile death penalty case involved Aurora theater gunman James Holmes.
The public defender’s office could not release the specific costs of defending Holmes, but prosecutors estimated it spent about $1.4 million on the lengthy case, not counting the salaries of attorneys and staffers assigned to the trial.
A jury ultimately sentenced Holmes to life in prison. The sheriff’s office said it spent roughly $1.6 million detaining, transporting, and protecting Holmes and the courtroom during the trial prior to his final sentencing.
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Prosecutors have not announced whether they plan to seek the death penalty against accused Planned Parenthood gunman Robert Lewis Dear. Prosecutors say Dear murdered three people, including a police officer, and wounded nine more in the Colorado Springs clinic the day after Thanksgiving.