Putting an End to the Death Penalty

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In our nation, we have chosen to legally sanction hundreds of peoples’ deaths by shooting, hanging, electrocuting, lethally injecting, or gassing in jail.

In the State of Washington, we have a moratorium to execution called by Gov. Inslee three years ago. However, without legislation abolishing the death penalty, those on death row could again face either lethal injection or hanging in our state.

There is little credible evidence the death penalty serves as a deterrent, and the costs of a death penalty prosecution is significantly more than bringing a criminal case to court with a life sentence penalty (See: Seattle University Death Penalty Cost Study 2015).

We also know “juries in Washington imposed a death sentence in a notably larger share of cases involving black defendants than in cases involving white or other defendants” (See: UW Professor Katherine Beckman’s 2014 study.)

Those moral issues, in addition to the point that victims’ families suffer while sentencing is delayed for years make the death penalty a bad option for any civilized society.

I oppose the death penalty, period. This should be the year the State of Washington joins nineteen other states and over 100 nations to abolish it.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and former A.G. Rob McKenna joined forces to propose a bi-partisan bill in opposition of the death penalty.  Senator Mark Miloscia (R) and Representative Tina Orwall (D) introduced legislation to abolish the death penalty in our state (Read SB 5354 here).

Bob Ferguson stated,  “there is no role for capital punishment in a fair, equitable and humane justice system. The Legislature has evaded a vote on the death penalty for years. The public deserves to know where their representatives stand.”

Members of the Seattle City Council, Mayor Edward B. Murray, and City Attorney Pete Holmes joined me today in signing a letter in support of the bi-partisan legislation, and the letter can be viewed here.

How and why we continue to incarcerate millions of people in the US today—and leave hundreds on death row—are issues we must seriously re-examine and address.   I highly recommend Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy to everyone because he explores the questions at the roots.

Last year many of our Washington State Prosecuting Attorneys urged the legislature—if they fail to vote themselves—to submit the death penalty to the people for a vote. I am hopeful that this year our Legislature will take up the issue and pass the bipartisan legislation.  If the Legislature refuses to do so, we should submit the question for a state-wide vote.

I have faith in the people in this state to say we will no longer tolerate this state sanctioned violence. Join me in telling your legislators how strongly you feel about this.