SACRAMENTO, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. states that repeal death penalty laws do not see a significant savings in trial costs, a Criminal Justice Legal Foundation study says.
The group said that in states where the death penalty is the maximum punishment, a larger number of defendants are willing to plead guilty and receive a life sentence.
"The greater cost of trials where the prosecution does seek the death penalty is offset, at least in part, by the savings from avoiding trial altogether in cases where the defendant pleads guilty," the group based in Sacramento said in a statement. "Although this effect is well known to people working in the field, there appears to be no prior study to determine the actual size of this effect."
The study -- "The Death Penalty and Plea Bargaining of Life Sentences" -- examined data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics from 33 large urban counties. The study examined how many of the murder cases were resolved by guilty plea, how many went to trial and how many resulted in a sentence of at least 20 years.
In states with the death penalty, the average county obtained sentences of 20 years or more in more than 50 percent of cases where the defendant was convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter.
In states without the death penalty, sentences of 20 years or more were obtained in just more than 40 percent of such cases, but only 5 percent of those were guilty pleas, or just more than a quarter of the number in the death penalty states, the group said.