Washington Court Prohibits Use of the Death Penalty

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Washington Court Prohibits Use of the Death Penalty

Today the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty violated the Washington constitution.

 

In a unanimous ruling the justices held that the death penalty is arbitrarily and disproportionately applied. The court concluded that the way in which the state used the death penalty violated the state constitutional guarantees.

 

There were eight people on Washington’s death row who were affected by this ruling. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison without parole. The case was brought by one of these inmates, Allen Gregory, who was sentenced to death for robbing and killing a woman in 1996.

 

Governor Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty’s use in 2014, saying he would never permit an execution while he was governor. He hailed the decision as important for the fair application of justice. There have been legislative attempts to abolish capital punishment, but they have never made it all the way through both houses of the legislature.

 

The court did not say that capital punishment itself was unconstitutional, but did hold how it was currently applied in the state was unlawful. The legislature could reform the state’s laws in an attempt to meet the objections made by the court’s justices. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would ask the legislature to rewrite the state’s law governing capital punishment.

 

With this ruling, Washington joins 19 other states in prohibiting the death penalty.


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