Eric Joseph Tirado will probably go to prison for life, without possibility of parole, for the murder of State Police Cpl. Ted Wolf. As well he should. But at what cost? In order to put him behind bars for good, taxpayers have spent scores of thousands of dollars for the prosecution effort by the Howard County state's attorney's office, plus scores of thousands of dollars more for Tirado's defense by the public defender's office.
And it is not over yet. Tirado gets a free (to him, not to you) appeal. This is not cheap. It costs lawyers' time, printing of transcripts, etc., not to mention the time the Court of Appeals will have to spend on the case -- time that could better be devoted to other matters in an overloaded judicial system. Tirado may even win his appeal. Howard Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. handled the trial with fairness and judicial competence, but even the best judges can make mistakes in trials like this one. If the verdict were overturned, the meter could start running all over again, and there might even have to be another trial.
What is wrong with all this is that it is so unnecessary. Tirado offered to plead guilty at the start if the state would not seek the death penalty. But as so often happens, in suburban counties especially, public blood lust pressured an elected prosecutor to refuse the deal and insist on a capital trial. So for weeks, the county's top criminal prosecutors and their staffs were not available to deal with other criminal business.