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What does the death penalty cost taxpayers?

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Jason Smith (center, in orange jumpsuit) Jason Smith (center, in orange jumpsuit)
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Jason Smith is already set to spend the rest of his life behind bars after a murder conviction.

He was also facing a second trail for second degree murder in the killing and burning of a man, until the State Attorney's Office changed their mind and decided to go for the death penalty.

“The number of hours usually triple, probably quadruple, and the expense goes anywhere from about $10,000 for a more simplistic case to somewhere in the vicinity, close to $100,000 on some of these cases,” said Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt.

“Most death penalty cases require the hiring of experts. You have to give the jury that is looking at this case an idea of who your client is,” said Holt.

News Channel 8 reached out to State Attorney Mark Ober’s office to find out why and how they decided to try for the death penalty against Smith. They declined to comment.

“We all know that practically speaking everything has a price tag, everything cost. But from the law perspective, from society’s prospective when I think about what justice means, it shouldn't have a price tag,” said Stetson University professor Charles Rose.

“You could put someone in prison for multiple lifetimes and never spend the amount of money that it takes to put them to death once,” said Rose.

The website deathpenaltyinfo.org estimates the state of Florida spends $51 million additional dollars each year to handle death penalty cases.

Holt said it adds more work to her underfunded office. Public defenders' offices across the state will take part in a study starting this summer where they will track how they spend each minute of their day in hopes of getting more funding.

“We will be operating our office the same way as if we were in private practice tracking the time that we spend on cases,” said Holt.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.



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