There have been decades of moral arguments for and against the death penalty, but the debate may eventually turn on something more tangible, money.
A series of recent surveys find it is cheaper, a lot cheaper, to imprison killers for life than to execute them.
The findings come at a time of a devastating recession job cuts and massive deficits.
So an increasing number of politicians are actually considering abolishing capital punishment in favor of life imprisonment, not on principle but financial necessity.
Donald McCartin, once known as "The Hanging Judge of Orange County" in California, says "it's 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive," even though most people believe the opposite.
Deep into retirement, he now says execution is waste of time and money and prolongs the agony of the victims' families.