Washington Legislators Look to Abolish Death Penalty

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Apr 25

Lewis & Laws

Washington Legislators Look to Abolish Death Penalty

by Lewis & Laws

Washington Legislators Look to Abolish Death Penalty

Washington is one of 31 states that still has the death penalty. Under current state law, people who are found guilty of aggravated first-degree murder can be put to death by either hanging or lethal injection.

The last execution took place in 2010 and as of March 2018, there are eight men on death row in Walla Walla, the state penitentiary. In 2014, Governor Jay Inslee suspended the death penalty for as long as he remains in office. Now, however, Washington state legislators want to abolish the death penalty altogether.

A new bill abolishing the death penalty in Washington was recently voted out of a state Senate committee. This is the first time an anti-death penalty bill has advanced this far in the last 5 years. The bill, however, has many hurdles before making it to the governor’s desk. Yet, many proponents of the bill remain optimistic that now is the right time to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

How Useful is the Death Penalty in Washington?

There are many who believe that capital punishment should stay in Washington. They argue that it can be a very useful tool when negotiating with some of the state’s most egregious offenders. Yet in the last several years, prosecutors have said that the death penalty is a costly application and is virtually ineffective in deterring serious crimes. According to a 2015 Seattle University study of state convictions, the death penalty costs an average $1 million more per case than life in prison.

In addition, the death penalty is the product of an imperfect justice system - meaning that innocent people can and HAVE been put to death. In fact, since 1973, more than 150 people across the country have been exonerated from death row. One of those individuals, Kirk Bloodsworth, is currently calling on Washington state legislators to abolish the death penalty for this very fact. In 1985, he was convicted for the rape and murder of a little girl. He maintained his innocence but was sentenced to death. He spent 9 years in prison before becoming the first person to be exonerated by DNA evidence on death row. With his help, Maryland abolished capital punishment in 2013 and now he hopes to help Washington do the same.

Will Washington Abolish the Death Penalty?

It remains to be seen if Washington will abolish the death penalty this year. However, if they do, they would follow 18 other states who have done so in recent years, including New York, Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico. Currently public support for the death penalty is at a 40-year low with just 56% of Americans still in favor of the death penalty. Now, for the first time in years, lawmakers on both sides are optimistic that 2018 will indeed bring about the end of the death penalty in Washington - once and for all.

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