Whether it costs more to execute someone or to just keep them in prison until they die naturally has become an issue for the state senate.  Anti-death penalty advocates have argued for years that it’s cheaper to house and feed someone in prison for life than it is to execute them.  Senator Joseph Keaveny of St. Louis wants to find out. He proposes having the state auditor study thirty cases.  But he’s hoping to fight off an effort calling for outside groups to pay the 160-thousand dollar cost, not the state. “I believe it will taint the results of the study,” he says

But another St. Louis senator, John Lamping, says he won’t support the study unless an outside group does pay the bill.  He disagrees that outside money would taint the results, arguing the Auditor’s standards remain high regardless of who pays for his work. “I would be surprised if some third party group didn’t fund it,” he says, “because if that third party group were to do the same analysis on their own,  it would be easy for others to suggest the outcome was biased.”

Keaveny admits the study could strengthen efforts to abolish the death penalty. But he says that’s an argument for another day, after the study is done.

Missouri has executed only two inmates in the last seven-plus years, the last one about two years ago, while appeals question the state’s execution methods.

AUDIO: Senate debate 32:16