State Washington state attorney general, with former attorney general Rob McKenna and Gov. Jay Inslee, announced proposed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Washington state.

Published on January 18th, 2017 | by The Kitsap Scene


Will Legislators Enact Bob Ferguson’s Proposal to End the Death Penalty in Washington?

Are the death penalty’s days numbered in Washington state?

Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday proposed bipartisan legislation to abolish he death penalty in Washington.

In a press release, Ferguson cited former Republican attorney general Rob McKenna’s support of abolishing capital punishment as evidence that the measure has “broad, bipartisan” support. At a press conference, Ferguson and McKenna were reportedly joined by Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators from both sides of the political aisle and from across the state.
“There is no role for capital punishment in a fair, equitable and humane justice system,” Ferguson said, according to the release. “The Legislature has evaded a vote on the death penalty for years. The public deserves to know where their representatives stand.”
“The current system is not working,” McKenna reportedly said. “There is too much delay, cost and uncertainty around the death penalty, which is why I stand today with Attorney General Ferguson and this bipartisan group of legislators in support of this change.”

According to Ferguson, reasons for opposing the death penalty include:

  • Moral opposition to the state taking lives in the people’s name
  • The possibility of executing an innocent person in our imperfect system
  • The increased cost of seeking death sentences versus life in prison – over $1 million on average in Washington state
  • The concentration of capital cases in the counties with the most resources to pursue them
  • The ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.

The proposed legislation will be sponsored by Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, in the Senate.  Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, will introduce a companion bill in the House.
“The public is slowly changing on the death penalty,” Miloscia said. “I think now is the time to sit down and have a real conversation on how we administer justice in this state.”

The bill is expected to go to the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

The proposal comes after Inslee, in February 2014, imposed a moratorium on executions in Washington, finding that they are “unequally applied” and  “sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget,” according to the release.

The editorial boards of daily newspapers across the state, including The Seattle Times, Spokesman-Review, News Tribune and Daily Herald have urged the state to eliminate capital punishment in editorials published in the wake of Inslee’s moratorium..

Other comments included in the release:

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle: “We recognize that the death penalty is a painfully difficult and profoundly serious public issue. Sen. With heavy consideration, we believe the time has come to end this practice in Washington and ask that our colleagues in the Legislature join us in making our criminal justice system reflect our deepest held values.”
Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla: “As a means of effective punishment, the death penalty is outdated. Our legal system imposes enormous costs on prosecutors who try death penalty cases, the appeals process costs millions more, and the punishment is ultimately so uncertain that it is difficult to claim that justice is served. Not only is life-without-parole more cost-effective, it also offers the certainty that is an essential element of justice.”
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines: “Over the last four decades, 156 people have been exonerated from death row across the nation. How many more continue waiting for new evidence to prove their innocence, and will they get it before their lives are taken? If we truly want to serve justice, the state should avoid irreversible punishment to individuals who were wrongly convicted and would have otherwise been executed.”

Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton: “As a former prosecuting attorney for Columbia County, my heart remains with the families of the victims who suffered horrific acts that would justify the death penalty. Their feelings should never be minimalized. That is why it has taken so long for my thoughts to evolve against the death penalty in Washington state. However, the steps, the immense and extended time, and the incredible expense and resources it takes to impose and uphold this most severe form of punishment have made the death penalty nearly impossible to carry out. In recent years, even in the most heinous crimes, jurors have failed to impose the death penalty. In the meantime, families suffer for years with the angst of having to go through trials, court proceedings, appeals and more, not knowing if the death penalty will ever take place.”

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The Kitsap Scene is an online news magazine covering everything in Kitsap County.

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