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Prosecutors react to Inslee’s suspension on death penalty

Governor Jay Inslee has decided that he will not allow any executions while he’s governor. He says the death penalty is expensive. It’s not a deterrent. It costs too much, and is unevenly applied county-to-county. So he will use his constitutional authority to issue a blanket reprieve to inmates on death row.

“We’ve been studying this for several months in great detail to take a look at how the death penalty functions in our state and we just got to a position where I was confident this was the right decision,” says Inslee.

Inslee’s move undermines, at least for now, a strategy prosecutors have used successfully to get suspects to cooperate, as in the case of the Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, who agreed to “tell all” in exchange for his life.

Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says that’s not a factor in Pierce County.

“We do not use the death penalty as a plea agreement tool because the question of life and death is too heavy to be a fair bargaining chip,” says Lindquist.

But Governor Inslee’s announcement Tuesday caught at least one of our county prosecutors off guard.

“I’m disappointed and surprised. I think that’s a pretty common feeling among prosecutors right now,” says Mark Roe in Snohomish County.

Roe tells us that he’s worried about the victims who’ve lost loved ones to murderers.

“We make a promise as prosecutors I think all across this state to victims and their survivors on horrendous cases like this that we’ll tell them the truth and we’ll let them know what the status of their case is. I wish we had more time to do that before some of them probably felt blindsided by this announcement,” says Roe.

In King County, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the Governor’s decision to suspend the death penalty will “cause more delay, expense and uncertainty,” and he’s calling for public debate on the issue.

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