U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is on the hot seat for numerous Justice Department decisions. Some are regarded as unethical, politically motivated and even incompetent.

One of his decisions with a local effect was in the Moonda murder case.

The attorney general decides whether to pursue the death penalty in capital murder cases in federal court. Gonzales’ decision was needlessly expensive for taxpayers.

It came as no surprise to anyone that Donna Moonda was found guilty of planning the murder of her husband, Dr. Gulam Moonda, two years ago on the Ohio turnpike. It was no surprise either that the jury declined to give her the death penalty, instead settling for a life sentence.

After all, when the person who pulled the trigger, Damian Bradford, got a very light 17è-year sentence, it would be difficult to convince a jury that Mrs. Moonda deserved death. Obviously the Bradford sentence — negotiated so he would testify against Mrs. Moonda — was a mitigating factor in the jury’s handing down a life sentence.

But the big question is: Why did the federal government seek the death penalty in the first place?

It meant that Mrs. Moonda was entitled to attorneys who specialize in death-penalty cases. Since they were court-appointed because she couldn’t pay for them, taxpayers picked up the tab.

That tab was big. The allotted expense for the trial was slightly more than $465,000 and it may have even cost more. Although our money is paying for it, the total expense was sealed by the court.

Another attorney will be appointed for the appeal which will cost even more money.

So seeking a death penalty was not only a huge waste of our money in this instance, you have to wonder how many other times this has happened throughout the country.

This is a prime example of why we should do away with the death penalty. It has never really been a factor in stopping crime. And then there are the times when innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death.

But a big factor is expense. When a death penalty is handed down, it usually means many years on death row for the prisoner and appeal after appeal. Maintaining people on death row is much more expensive than housing regular prisoners.

The Moonda murder was a federal case. But most murder trials are in state court, where that state’s tax money pays the toll. Twelve states do not permit the death penalty and it would be wise if more — such as Pennsylvania and Ohio — would adopt that stance. Pennsylvania, after all, has only executed 3 people since 1976, while Ohio has executed 26.

Whether you are for or against the death penalty for moral reasons, the Moonda case shows there is good reason to argue against it for economic reasons.

Trying someone for murder under the penalty of death is very expensive. And — pardon the pun — taxes are already killing all of us.

Recommended for you