State officials propose to end Washington’s death penalty

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson were among a group of bipartisan officials proposing the state’s death penalty be abolished during a press conference at the State Capitol on Monday.

Gov. Inslee tweeted from his website afterward that he “was proud to stand with” officials from both sides of the aisle on this issue.

Inslee imposed a moratorium in February of 2014 on executions in the state of Washington, finding that executions are “unequally applied” and “sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget.” His moratorium remains in place.

Ferguson provided reasons for opposition to the death penalty, including: Moral opposition to the state taking lives in the people’s name; possibility of executing an innocent person in our imperfect system; increased cost of seeking death sentences versus life in prison – more than $1 million on average in Washington state; concentration of capital cases in the counties with the most resources to pursue them; and, the ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.

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

Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna said the current system isn’t working.

“There is too much delay, cost and uncertainty around the death penalty,” said McKenna.

The governor did not propose this legislation to abolish the state’s death penalty. Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way (30th District), is sponsoring the Attorney General-request legislation in the Senate. Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines (33rd District), will introduce the companion House bill.

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

“The public is slowly changing on the death penalty. I think now is the time to sit down and have a real conversation on how we administer justice in this state,” Miloscia said.

During the past four decades, 156 people have been exonerated from death row across the nation, Orwall pointed out.

“How many more continue waiting for new evidence to prove their innocence, and will they get it before their lives are taken?” said Orwall, who also led the way to pass legislation to get compensation for those wrongfully convicted in Washington.