The end of the death penalty is a proud day for Washington

Lester Mason
October 12, 2018

Washington became the 20th US state to abolish capital punishment when its Supreme Court struck down the death penalty on Thursday, saying in a unanimous decision that its application was arbitrary and racially biased.

Washington has had a moratorium on executions since 2014, but the ruling makes it the 20th state to do away with capital punishment by legislative act or court decree.

"It is now apparent that Washington's death penalty is administered in an arbitrary and racially biased manner", Fairhurst wrote. Three others have moratoriums on it.

"Today's decision by the state Supreme Court thankfully ends the death penalty in Washington", said Governor Jay Inslee.

Following the supreme court ruling, Inslee released a statement calling the ruling a "hugely important moment" in the pursuit of "equal and fair application of justice".

They also said that even though the purposes of the death penalty are "retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders", capital punishment fails to serve these goals as it is now applied in the state. It joins Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, in banning the practice.

The ruling came in the appellate case of Allen Eugene Gregory, a black man who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1996.

But the Supreme Court rejected that argument and relied on the study in its decision.

"It's exponentially more expensive to litigate a death penalty case", Lindquist said.

"The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner", the decision reads.

Since 2000, the death penalty has been imposed in only two of Washington's 39 counties, and there have been only five executions in the state since 1987.

"There is nothing unique about the role racism played in Washington's death penalty", said Jeff Robinson, the deputy legal director and director of the Trone Center for Justice at the ACLU.

Dozens of former state judges took the unusual step of urging the court to use Gregory's case to strike down capital punishment. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 and sentenced to death.

Advocates for capital punishment argue it should be available for those who commit the worst crimes.

There will be no more state-sanctioned murders of possibly innocent and disproportionally black people in Washington State!

The ruling means the state is "less capricious and less tainted by racial bias", Inslee said at a news conference. It was the furthest any death penalty measure had gotten in the state Legislature after several years of effort.

In its ruling Thursday, the high court did not reconsider any of Gregory's arguments pertaining to guilty, noting that his conviction for aggravated first degree murder "has already been appealed and affirmed by this court". "I think the criminal justice system is stronger without the death penalty in our state". Reuven Carlyle, who had been a sponsor of those previous attempts, said in a text message.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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