The Cost in Time and Money of the Death Penalty - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

The Cost in Time and Money of the Death Penalty

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

Time is running out for convicted killer Jose Villegas, who was convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her mom and her three-year old son in 2001.

Villegas is out of appeals, and after 14 years on death row, is set to be executed next Wednesday.

The appellate process is long and arduous for all death penalty cases, and it's also an expensive undertaking. From trial to execution, studies show it costs taxpayers on average more than $1.5 million.

As of this week, Villegas' request to withdraw his pending execution has been in the judicial process for 14 years. He is one of five Nueces County defendants sentenced to death.

"I'm ready. Ain't no point in staying in here any longer," convicted murderer Daniel Lopez said. "I'm in a, in a box. So I'm ready, right."

Lopez was convicted in 2010 of capital murder in the death of Corpus Christi Police Lt. Stuart Alexander. He has made it clear that he wants to be put to death, but the appeals process for him continues.

"Let me have my final say," convicted murderer John Henry Ramirez said. "Let me say my peace, you know. Before you kill me, know what I mean?"

Ramirez was convicted of capital murder in 2008 for the 2004 stabbing of Times Market clerk Pablo Castro. His appeal is also in the works.

As is the case for 33-year old Richard Vasquez, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1998 beating death of four-year old Miranda Salazar, his girlfriend's daughter.

"I want to end these proceedings and let the sentence be carried out," convicted murderer Larry Hatten said.

On Thursday, Hatten, who 22 years ago was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a five-year old boy, asked to be executed.

The cost of justice is expensive.

"Well, the point is, we don't want to execute someone who hasn't had every opportunity possible," Appellate Prosecutor Doug Norman said.

Norman said it is the cost that ensures the integrity of the criminal justice system. Even if an inmate waves all appeals, Norman said that person's mental competency is called into question.

"You know, the courts really want to make sure that that's his will, that he understands and he's able to understand," Norman said. "He's mentally able to understand the consequences of the decision he's making."

Death penalty opponents said the cost of the death penalty is so expensive, close to $1.5 million, while life without parole will cost taxpayers $1 million to house a prisoner for 50 years.

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