Death Penalty

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A measure that would repeal the state’s death penalty law has passed the Senate for the third time in three years, with supporters of the bill hoping that new leadership in the House means the Legislature will make permanent a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling that struck down capital punishment as arbitrary and racially biased.

With a 28-18 vote Friday, the Senate approved the measure that would remove capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder and mandating instead a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration, where it has stalled in previous years. Gov. Jay Inslee has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk. New Democratic House Speaker Laurie Jinkins has said she personally supports the bill but that the caucus has not yet discussed it.

Before the 2018 ruling, execution was already rare in Washington, and a governor-imposed moratorium has blocked its use since 2014. But the court’s decision eliminated it entirely, converting the sentences for the state’s eight death row inmates to life in prison without release.

The court did not rule out the possibility that the Legislature could come up with another manner of imposing death sentences that would be constitutional, which led to the recent attempts to change state law.

“The Washington State Supreme Court has struck down the death penalty four times, and until now, we repeatedly tried to ‘fix’ the legal problems,” said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Enough is enough. This bill gives clarity to prosecutors and the public, ending the cycle of trying to fix this broken and irreparable law. The House of Representatives can send a powerful message that the people of Washington state are part of the nationwide movement to use finite criminal justice resources in ways that are fair, equitable, and effective.”

There have been 78 inmates, all men, put to death in Washington state since 1904, with the most recent execution in the state in 2010.

Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, said that attitudes of Americans on the death penalty have changed, and pointed to the number of states that have moved to abolish it.

“Now that we have firm resolution from both the executive branch and the judiciary branch, it is time for the legislative branch that sets the laws of our state to make a final determination on this particular legislation,” Carlyle said.

Including Washington’s court ruling, the death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 21 states and the District of Columbia. An additional four states — California, Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania — currently have moratoriums. Other states are currently considering measures, including Colorado, where the Senate on Friday approved a measure repealing the death penalty.

Republican Sen. Keith Wagoner argued that abolishing the death penalty denies victims and their families justice, and removes a tool that prosecutors and law enforcement need to gain information about other victims.

“I think the death penalty is a perfectly appropriate punishment in certain cases, and we need to keep it on the books,” he said.

(10) comments

Desert Dweller

Make sure to contact your state representatives and senator

kdog509

If a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole actually meant life in prison without possibility of parole it might serve as a deterrent.

EducatedAmerican

Maybe the cost is so high for Death Penalty cases has to do with the endless amount of appellees that the guilty parties file. Sure you want to get it right when death is the final word, but going from one court to the next to the next takes time and money. Wondering how much it cost to execute Timothy McVay. He did not appellee anything. Maybe Cheb. could compute that number from the date of his conviction to the injection vs. life in prison.

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OnlyOneVoice

According to Vera.org in 2015 Washington housed 16,716 prisoners. Washington's yearly expenditures were $632,557,822. Price per each prisoner=$37,841.

OnlyOneVoice

Sen. Carlyle is a Democrat. One who supports murder from per-birth to any age. Democrats are there to support the "real" victims, these "victims" are labeled as "murderers".

How wicked to shut up the mouth's of the true victims (who's mouthed have already been extinguished and can be heard no more) and their families.....truly heartless.

GrantCitizen

Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, said that attitudes of Americans on the death penalty have changed.

Are you sure about that, Reuven? Did you poll anyone outside your circle of 'Yes" men? Everyone does not lack the fortitude to see punishment through to the end.

TaxMonkey

Weak brainless politicians at it again. No justice for the victims. If someone is guilty of murder, in turn, they should be murdered back!

kdog509

Now you know why it's called the "criminal" justice system. No room for victim justice, they have to be happy with whatever crumbs they can get.

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