Campbell Case: Taxpayers' Cost Is $2.3 Million And Counting
When and if triple killer Charles Campbell will pay the ultimate price for his crimes is still unclear, but Washington state taxpayers have been paying for them for years.
Although no agency has kept track of the total price of the Campbell case, costs that can be identified indicate the total is more than $2.3 million and may exceed $3 million.
Campbell, 39, is nearing the end of his legal options and may be executed this year for the 1982 stabbing deaths of two women and a girl in Snohomish County.
On Wednesday, the state Clemency and Pardons Board will review his case, even though Campbell has said he is not ready to petition for clemency.
Like other indigent criminal defendants, Campbell qualified for court-appointed legal help.
That means taxpayers paid some attorneys to prosecute him and others to defend him, some attorneys to present his many appeals and others to oppose them.
They paid detectives to investigate him, jail guards to confine him, clerks to process papers, judges to consider legal questions, and court reporters to record it all.
In the largest single type of expense, the state paid nearly $1.5 million to relatives of Campbell's murder victims, who had sued the state saying Campbell should have been in prison at the time of the killings, not on work release.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Blonien, lead lawyer for the state's prison system, said it's impossible to put a price tag on one of the Campbell case's greatest drains on public money - the thousands of hours state attorneys have spent opposing Campbell's appeals.
Blonien said his division has never kept track of how much time is spent on each individual case but will begin that practice next month.
Housing and feeding Campbell at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, and transporting him by State Patrol aircraft to court appearances in Everett, has cost more than $270,000.
Campbell's attorneys - he has had more than a dozen since his arrest in 1982 - have been paid more than $225,000 for their work in state courts and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But figures were not available for another major expense: payments to lawyers representing Campbell in U.S. District Court.
Why the Campbell case has taken so long and cost so much is a matter of some debate.
State attorneys say Campbell and his lawyers have dragged out the appeal process by resurrecting the same issues on successive trips through the system.
Assistant state attorney general Paul Weisser said: "It's the courts that have determined that, in fact, Campbell is manipulating and abusing the process."
But Campbell blames the state.
"The office of the attorney general has created the misconception in the public arena that I have been manipulating the legal system and delaying justice," he said in a letter to the clemency board this month.
"The FACT is that I have always sought to have my appeal decided in one setting."
Some of Campbell's past and present lawyers contend that the case would have proceeded more quickly if not for a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 1985 that had the effect of splitting appeals issues.
"There's no question that one critical decision probably lengthened this thing by years," said Seattle lawyer James Lobsenz, who currently represents Campbell.
But Blonien dismisses such criticisms, asserting the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found no violations when it reviewed the state-court record three years ago.
"I think those challenges have been laid to rest - that he (Campbell) didn't get a fair shake," Blonien said.
Under Washington law, death-row inmates may petition the clemency board, which makes a recommendation to the governor on whether to spare an inmate's life. Gov. Mike Lowry has asked the board to examine the case now to reduce the chance that a petition received from Campbell later might force Lowry to delay the execution.
Since Campbell was sentenced to die on Dec. 17, 1982, 222 inmates have been put to death across the nation, according to statistics kept by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Although Campbell's 11-year appeal is the longest in this state so far, it is not close to a national record.
That belongs to William Andrews of Utah, executed by lethal injection in July 1992, 18 years after he was convicted of three counts of murder.
A 1993 Justice Department study that covered a 15-year period ending in 1992 found the average elapsed time from sentence to execution was 8 1/2 years.
In contrast to the Campbell case, Westley Allan Dodd was hanged at the Washington State Penitentiary last year 2 1/2 years after he was sentenced to death for killing three young boys in Vancouver, Wash.
But in choosing not to appeal his sentence, Dodd was the exception, not the rule. Blonien expects most death-row inmates will use all available appeals, as Campbell has.
Even so, recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions could shorten the federal appeals process in cases where capital punishment is involved, legal experts say.
Numerous studies have concluded that it costs substantially less to imprison a murderer than to fight the legal battle necessary to execute him. That finding was reached again in a 1993 report commissioned by North Carolina courts.
The study tracked 69 death sentences imposed in that state between 1979 and 1985. Of those cases, only four death-row inmates - one in 17 - had been put to death by the time of the report.
If one in 10 of the inmates had been executed, the study concluded that the extra cost of seeking the death penalty would have been $2.16 million per case - not counting federal-court costs.
The authors acknowledged that if a greater percentage of death-row inmates were executed and the time between the sentence and execution were reduced, the costs per execution would decrease.
"Our estimate (of costs) tends to be low compared with other studies that have attempted to look at this," said Philip Cook, a Duke University professor who was co-author of the study.
While the study's 1-in-10 assumption is open to question, it's within findings reported in a recent Justice Department study: Of the 4,361 prisoners sentenced to death nationally between 1977 and 1992, only 4.3 percent were executed.
One potentially costly phase of the Campbell case has yet to occur. That's the flurry of legal moves that usually take place in the final stages before an execution.
In the Dodd case, even though he wanted to be executed, the state spent approximately $150,000 fighting challenges from other parties seeking to stop the execution.
A final expense would be the execution itself. According to the state Department of Corrections, costs directly associated with last year's hanging of Dodd exceeded $33,000.
------------------------------------------------ CHARLES CAMPBELL: A $2.3 MILLION CASE OF JUSTICE ------------------------------------------------
Some of the bills taxpayers have covered in the Charles Campbell case: #
$950,000 Paid as settlement of lawsuit to survivors of Renae Wicklund and her daughter, Shannah Wicklund, who were murdered by Campbell in Snohomish County.
$540,000 Paid as settlement of lawsuit to the survivors of Barbara Hendrickson, the Wicklund neighbor friend also killed by Campbell.
$50,000 Paid as settlement of lawsuit to Charles Campbell's first wife, whom he raped while on work release.
$267,000 Housing and feeding Campbell during the decade he has been in the Intensive Management Unit, the most secure area of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
$135,000 Non-attorney court costs for Campbell's trial, including the cost of sending court personnel to Spokane for jury selection and bringing jurors from Spokane to hear the case.
$61,000 Time spent by Snohomish County prosecutors on the case.
$49,000 Paid to Campbell's lawyers for work before and during his trial in Snohomish County Superior Court.
$31,000 Paid to five sets of attorneys representing Campbell before the state Supreme Court.
$146,000 Paid to three sets of defense attorneys who represented Campbell before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
$65,000 To cover the state's costs for a federal-court hearing last spring, after which a judge ruled that hanging is not cruel and unusual punishment.
$9,400 To house Campbell in Snohomish County Jail during his trial.
$8,100 To produce the 4,900-page transcript of Campbell's trial for review by the state Supreme Court.
$5,000 Approximate cost of Washington State Patrol aircraft and pilot to fly Campbell from Walla Walla to Everett for hearings to set execution dates.
# Does not include: most staff time of Attorney General's Office for work done opposing Campbell's appeals; payments to attorneys representing Campbell, and to expert witnesses who testified on his behalf, in U.S. District Court appeals; salaries of court, law-enforcement, jail or prison personnel.
Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.