Seeking death penalty is a lengthy and costly process

Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry announced Tuesday he'll seek the death penalty against Kenneth Rackemann.
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For only the second time during his tenure as Marion County prosecutor, Terry Curry is seeking the death penalty.

"The only other occasion in which we filed the request for a death sentence was in the killing of Officer David Moore in January of 2011," said Curry at an afternoon news conference where he announced he'll seek the death penalty against 24-year-old Kenneth Rackemann in the February shooting deaths of four people inside a home on the south side.

The suspect in Officer Moore's murder ultimately pled guilty in exchange for life without parole.

Seeking the death penalty is a long and expensive process that can run into the seven-figure dollar amount, says criminal defense attorney Jack Crawford.

Crawford has seen the process from both sides. He was the prosecutor in Lake County for 12 years, from 1978-1990, and sought the death penalty more than 30 times. Of those cases, 17 ended up on death row, but most were eventually overturned on appeal.

Crawford has also served as a defense attorney where the death penalty was sought.

"You're taking a risk when you seek it, because some people just can't impose it and picking a jury is difficult in a death penalty case. Some people are just morally or religiously opposed to the death sentence," said Crawford.

Crawford said asking for the death of someone is an investment in both time and money, not to mention the untold anguish it can cost a victim's families during the lengthy appeal process.

"That's hard on the family of the deceased to go through it again and again and again," said Crawford.

That's why, said Crawford, victims' families are a major consideration when a prosecutor decides to ask for death.

"You have to have their support, I think, to have justice in the case," said Crawford. "They have to agree that this is an appropriate penalty."

A sentiment that was echoed by Curry when announcing his decision Tuesday to ask for the death of Kenneth Rackemann.

Curry said victims' families have to understand that the path to capital punishment isn't a short one.

"They will be living with this for a number of years. It could be 10, could be 12. It could be 15, 20 years," said Curry.

Those years translate into a significant cost to taxpayers, an often an even bigger cost emotionally to loved ones of the victims.

"They are going to have to live with this process," said Crawford. "And it is a process."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 20 executions in Indiana in the past 20 years.

Currently, there are 14 people on death row in Indiana.