State lawmakers to again consider eliminating capital punishment

  • Sunday, January 7, 2018 12:25pm
  • News

By Taylor McAvoy/WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A bill to be introduced this session would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state and require people convicted of first-degree murder to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested Senate Bill 6052 after other legislation failed to pass through a committee hearing last year.

“I’m reasonably optimistic that this could be the year,” Ferguson said, mentioning the bill’s bipartisan sponsorship. “The votes are there.”

Despite other legislative priorities, Ferguson said this year might be different with a democratic majority in the senate.

“The fact is that taxpayers foot the multi-million dollar appeals process for the accused, and we spend $50,000 a year for incarceration,” Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, the bill’s prime sponsor, wrote in an email. “A life sentence with no chance of early release saves money and issues the ultimate punishment by denying the convicted their freedom and liberties for life just as they did their victim.”

Allowing an individual’s right to appeal, Walsh also noted that there are cases in which a person can be exonerated if new evidence arises.

Still, the appeals process and litigation for these cases can cost the state millions of dollars, which, Walsh said, outweighs the cost of keeping someone in prison for life in many cases.

In a 2015 study from Seattle University’s School of Law examining 147 aggravated first-degree murder cases since 1997, authors estimated the average cost of capital punishment cases to be more than $3 million compared to cases that did not seek the capital punishment to be about $2 million.

The largest differential factors being trial level prosecution costs ,which are 2.3 times more expensive in capital punishment cases than cases that do not seek the death penalty. Court and police costs are 3.9 times more costly, and appeals are 5.7 times more costly in the same cases.

Walsh said the economic argument is a compelling one but says stories of the lives affected by the death penalty are also worth discussing.

There are eight incarcerated individuals on death row, according to Washington Department of Corrections. The last person to be executed in the state was Cal Coburn Brown in 2010.

In February 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a moratorium on executions in Washington state. The moratorium allows Inslee to grant reprieves so no prisoners are executed but does not pardon them. According to a press release last year, capital punishment is “unequally applied” and “sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget.”

More in News

AuburnFest celebration: register, join the parade

Fun run, vendors, car show also open to participants at summertime showcase

Toastmasters honors Auburn morning club

Club named President’s Distinguished; members earn education, leadership awards

Auburn Valley Kiwanis Club’s 33rd annual Golf Classic set to tee off Aug. 3

‘Helping Kids out of the Rough’ to raise money for community causes

Raising the Par tees off July 19

Scramble tournament to benefit Nexus Youth and Families

The Carlton Complex wildfire burned in north-central Washington state in 2014. Photo by Jason Kriess/Wikimedia Commons
King County burn ban under way

Other counties across the state have already enacted similar restrictions.

Between Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and the new no-poach cause agreement, Washington has been leading the nation in advancing fast food workers’ rights. Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Washington AG’s deal grants mobility to fast food workers nationwide

Seven fast food chains have agreed to end no-poaching policies that economists say cause wage stagnation.

Dianne Laurine, a Commissioner for the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities says that she needs plastic straws to drink liquids, and that she easily bites through ones made out of paper. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Straw ban leaves disabled community feeling high and dry

Although disabled people are exempted from Seattle’s new law, the impacted community says that businesses haven’t gotten the message.

Auburn mourns the passing of former City Councilman Cerino

For the Reporter Former City Councilman Gene Cerino passed away early Friday… Continue reading

Construction along 15th Street NE/NW requires land closures

Starting on Monday, July 16, through approximately Wednesday, July 18, the 15th… Continue reading

Most Read