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'It's expensive:' This is how much a death penalty case costs in Indiana

Lt. Aaron Allan case sheds light on high costs of capital punishment
Remembering Southport Police Lt. Aaron Allan
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 19:05:48-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The man accused of killing Southport Police Department Lt. Aaron Allan in 2017 is no longer facing the death penalty, but his case is still costing taxpayers nearly a quarter-million dollars.

And the bills in Jason Dane Brown's defense will keep mounting until his trial, now set for Feb. 7 in Marion Superior Court.

"It's expensive," said Denise Turner, Brown's defense attorney. "There's just so many more people involved. There's so much more investigation that's involved."

"These are not quick cases. They take a long time. And so, the longer you go, the more expensive it is."

Death penalty cases in Indiana cost five to 10 times what taxpayers spend when prosecutors seek life without parole, studies have found.

The Marion County Auditor's Office told WRTV that Brown's defense costs were $242,477.61. That total comes even though Turner and two other lawyers defending Brown are doing so pro bono, meaning they are not getting paid.

If the lawyers were getting paid, the costs would be much higher.

The auditor's office did not disclose who was paid or how much because the case is still pending and Brown's defense has a right to keep their strategy secret until the trial is over.

But the money spent so far is shining a new light on the high costs of capital punishment.

The cost of death penalty cases in Indiana

In 2018, Indiana's Legislative Services Agency found that the average cost of a death penalty case in Indiana was $281,000, compared to $56,000 when prosecutors sought life without parole, the second most serious punishment in Indiana.

But money can't be the only thing prosecutors weigh when they decide to seek a death penalty, said Jeremy Mull, the Clark County prosecutor and chairman of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council's capital litigation committee.

These defendants are typically "the worst of the worst," he said. They have killed cops, children or multiple people. They've raped or tortured victims.

Sometimes, Mull said, justice demands the ultimate punishment.

"The point to not be lost in the discussion is that it's worth the cost to get justice for victims of these very heinous offenses," said Mull, who advises Indiana prosecutors when they consider filing capital cases.

"Many people believe, including the legislature, that the only appropriate penalty for some of those crimes is to forfeit the life of the murderer."

The death of Lt. Aaron Allan

Brown, a tattoo artist at a south-side parlor, crashed and flipped a 2004 BMW 325 in the 6600 block of South Madison Avenue in Homecroft about 2:40 p.m. on July 27, 2017.

Allan was among the first officers on the scene. He found Brown belted in the driver's seat of the upside-down BMW.

Brown's passenger crawled out of the car and was talking with another police officer when Lt. Allan crawled in through the passenger-side window.

Brown, prosecutors say, pulled a gun and fired more than a dozen shots. Allan's body had 11 bullet wounds, according to court records.

Two other officers at the scene returned fire; their bullets struck Brown in the body and face. Brown was hospitalized and later recovered.

“The inevitable question here is why did this happen? And we simply do not know, and we might not ever know," then-Prosecutor Terry Curry told reporters in September 2017 when he announced that he was filing the death penalty against Brown.

"But choices were made by this defendant which resulted in the death of Lt. Allan and he must thus be held accountable for those actions.”

Curry stepped down in 2019 as he battled prostate cancer. He died in July 2021.

Curry's successor, Prosecutor Ryan Mears, dropped the death penalty charge against Brown on Dec. 3.

In exchange, Brown agreed to waive his right to a jury trial and will instead let a judge decide his fate.

This change reduces some of the trial costs. Taxpayers won't have to pay to find and feed a jury. They won't have to pay for hotel rooms if jurors need to be sequestered.

The trial that would have taken a month or longer is now scheduled to be completed in two weeks.

If convicted, Brown still faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.

"You know, if the state wants to charge it (the death penalty) then they should pay for it," Turner said. "If you don't want to pay for the death penalty, you don't want to pay all these expenses, you don't want to pay for the extra attorneys for the extra investigations that go on behind it ... then don't charge the death penalty."

RELATED | In her words: Wife of Lt. Allan remembers her husband | Hours before he was killed, Lt. Aaron Allan walked his son to his first day of kindergarten | Remembering Southport police Lt. Aaron Allan: A father, a husband & first to rush to those in need | Prosecutor to seek death penalty against Jason Brown, man accused of killing Lt. Aaron Allan | Prosecutors drop death penalty against man accused of killing Southport police officer

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.