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Death At What Price?

The Georgia criminal-justice system is getting its fifteen minutes of fame today, mostly thanks to the news that the state Supreme Court mercifully decided to overturn the absurd ten-year prison sentence given to Genarlow Wilson for receiving oral sex from a girl two years his junior. But the Los Angeles Times has a more interesting story from the Peach State: Republicans in the state legislature are up in arms that Brian Nichols, who is accused of rape and four murders, is racking up more than $1.2 million in legal fees in his capital-murder case. That certainly seems excessive at first blush, but as the Times reports, prosecutors did file a 54-count indictment and named 300 potential witnesses--one can imagine that defending such a case would be pricey, and surely the state doesn't want to leave any stone unturned before it puts someone to death, right? This case, in my opinion, illustrates perhaps the most persuasive argument against the death penalty: it's simply too expensive. If you're going to reduce the chance of executing an innocent person to a level that a reasonable person would consider acceptable (a level we're not particularly close to now), you're going to have to spend millions of dollars in legal fees, and that really doesn't seem like a very good use of taxpayer money.

--Josh Patashnik