‘He got away with murder’ – Family of corrections officer reacts to court ruling on death penalty
Convicted rapist and murderer Byron Scherf was already serving life in prison without parole in 2011 when he killed Monroe Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl.
It was a lengthy trial that took a toll on Biendl’s tight-knit family.
When he was sentenced to death in May of 2013, Biendl’s sister, Lisa Hamm, was ecstatic.
“I’ve been waiting 837 days, exactly, to hear those words that he’s got the death penalty,” Hamm, told reporters at the time. “I’m going to continue to count until he’s finally dead.”
The family went out to celebrate that day.
“We all wanted to see him get the death penalty, we all felt like justice was finally served,” Hamm said.
Less than a year later, Governor Inslee issued a moratorium on executions, saying he was not convinced equal justice was being served in Washington state death penalty cases. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed, issuing a ruling effectively ending capital punishment in Washington state.
All eight death row inmates will now have their sentences converted to life without parole, which Biendl’s killer was already serving.
“It’s like the rug is being pulled out from under us,” Hamm said after hearing the news.
“I feel like we went through a lot of pain and suffering to get the result that we all wanted … we took time out of our lives, and stress to sit through something so painful because we all wanted the same result and that’s the result we got and it made us feel better. It made us feel like justice was served and that he should get what he got (the) death penalty. So, to take it (away) I can’t say it enough … it’s devastating.”
For the last several years, Hamm traveled to Olympia to appeal to lawmakers every time they took up a bill to abolish the death penalty, testifying earlier this year.
“She was murdered by an inmate in the chapel in the Monroe state prison,” Hamm testified. “The inmate was already serving a life without parole sentence. By abolishing the death penalty, that effectively removes any type of punishment for the monster who killed my sister.”
Hamm takes issue with Governor Inslee and others praising Thursday’s court ruling as equal justice for all.
“It’s equal justice for everyone except Jayme,” Hamm said. “And any other correctional officer that this may happen to, I know it’s rare, but is this opening the door for them (inmates serving life without parole) to start killing corrections officers because it’s not going to matter?”
As for her sister’s killer, Hamm said, “It’s a free murder. He got away with murder because he was already in for life without parole.”