Bill introduced to allow death penalty for inmates committing murder
In 2011, Byron Scherf — a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex — strangled Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl in the prison chapel.
He was sentenced to death in 2013, but that sentence was vacated last year following the state Supreme Court decision that found Washington’s death penalty unconstitutional. The court ruled the death penalty was applied arbitrarily and in a racially biased manner.
Republican state Senator Keith Wagoner says that’s unacceptable.
“He is not eligible for the death penalty, so in effect there is no penalty at all for murders that are committed while you’re incarcerated [for life],” Wagoner said. “I think that’s just wrong, it’s wrong for the victims, it’s wrong for the family members of the victims and it doesn’t provide any accountability on the perpetrator.”
That’s why he has introduced a bill that creates a path to allow capital punishment in cases of someone serving life for aggravated murder who kills while behind bars. The bill is named after Biendl.
Prosecutors would be mandated to refer cases to a review panel that would be created to consider the cases and make a recommendation on whether the death penalty is appropriate.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has requested a separate bill to completely abolish the death penalty in Washington State.
Ferguson had no comment on Wagoner’s bill.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee backs Ferguson’s bill to abolish the death penalty.
Asked about Wagoner’s bill, Inslee’s office had this statement.
The governor recognizes that the death penalty is a very emotional issue and that people have strong feelings on all sides of the debate. As he has said before, capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner, is unequally applied and serves no criminal justice goal. Notably, the State Supreme Court ruled on this last year and came to the same conclusion