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State Senate passes bill to abolish death penalty

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, standing center, watches with Sen. Jaime Pedersen D-Seattle, seated center, as votes are tallied Friday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Washington Senate has passed a bill to abolish the death penalty.

RELATED: State Supreme Court ends death penalty in Washington

Last October, the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the death penalty, calling it arbitrary and racially biased.

The measure passed by the Senate Friday would make that court ruling permanent, by removing capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder. Instead, it would mandate a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

It now moves on to the Washington State House of Representatives. If it passes there, Gov. Jay Inslee has said he will sign it into law.

“It is time to close the chapter on this particular policy that is respectful of the judicial progress, and that is also respectful of the dialogue the American people have embraced for many years,” said State Senator Reuven Carlyle in support of the legislation.

Speaking out in opposition to the bill was State Senator Keith Wagoner, who recently introduced legislation to allow the death penalty in specific cases of inmates committing murder while incarcerated.

“Now we’ve created a criminal nirvana, where at the top level of crimes — the most heinous crimes — there’s no consequence,” he said.

Wagoner originally introduced his bill citing the 2011 murder of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl by Byron Scherf, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

RELATED: Bill introduced to allow death penalty for inmates committing murder

Gov. Inslee declared a moratorium on carrying out executions in 2014.

Additional reporting from KIRO Radio News Staff

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