Prosecutor: Cost is factor in decision to seek death penalty

INDIANAPOLIS - A decision to seek the death penalty in a central Indiana murder case was meeting mixed reactions Tuesday evening.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said many factors went into the decision to seek the death penalty for 24-year-old Kenneth Rackemann. One was cost -- Curry said it isn’t unusual for the taxpayers’ tab in death penalty cases to reach the millions -- even if the case doesn’t go to trial.

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Rackemann was charged in the murders of two men and two women in a house on South Parker Avenue on Feb. 20.

A neighbor who lived nearby said he agreed with the decision to seek the death penalty.

"Just because of the viciousness of it, and the fact it was surrounding drugs, illegal activity, things like that," the neighbor said.

He said he remembered when police discovered the bodies of Walter Burnell, Jacob Rodemich, Kristy Mae Sanchez and Hayley Navarra on his street.

"It happened early in the day on a nice day when the kids were playing. It's scary," he said.

Monica Foster has spent almost her entire 33-year career defending clients in death penalty cases.

The Chief Federal Defender for Indiana’s southern district was not expecting the decision. Foster said she was stunned.

A report from the Legislative Services Agency shows the average death penalty case costs more than $450,000.

Foster said two of the most recent death penalty cases in Indiana, including the Hamilton Avenue murders, cost almost double that amount.

"The Indiana legislature has determined that seeking the death penalty in Indiana costs ten times more than seeking life without the possibility of parole, five times more costly when you add in the cost of incarceration," Foster said.

Curry said he can’t speculate on the cost in this case.

"Certainly it is not unusual that in the past, the combined cost to the courts, the public defender exceed seven figures. That is just one of the many reasons why we need to exercise significant discretion in making this decision," Curry said.

The only other time Curry has filed a request for the death penalty was in the killing of Indianapolis Officer David Moore in 2011.

The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has yet to determine if it will seek the death penalty against Major Davis II, who is accused of fatally shooting Officer Perry Renn.

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