MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Gov. Inslee signs bill finding death penalty in WA unconstitutional

Apr 20, 2023, 12:14 PM | Updated: 12:54 pm

death penalty...

Randy Gardner is removed by police while wearing his executed brother's prison jumpsuit during an anti death penalty protest at the US Supreme Court January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Update 11:54 a.m.:

Thursday, April 20, Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that repealed a number of unconstitutional state laws, including Washington’s invalid death penalty statute.

In 2018, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s use of the death penalty was “racially biased,” “arbitrary,” and “lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’ ”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has proposed legislation to remove Washington’s death penalty from state law every session since 2017.

“The Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s death penalty is invalid because it’s applied in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” Ferguson said. “On Friday, the Legislature took the important and appropriate step of repealing the death penalty from our state statutes once and for all. Thank you to Senator Pedersen for his leadership.”

Original 4/10:

Washington’s death penalty was among 40 laws removed in a “housekeeping” bill that the state Supreme Court found unconstitutional.

The court ruled the law was unconstitutional not on its morality, but how it was being applied unequally.

Fifty-eight representatives said yes to striking these unconstitutional statutes from the state’s books, while 39 opposed with Lillian Ortiz-Self excusing herself from the vote. One Republican, Skyler Rude (D-16), joined the Democratic caucus in voting to support the bill, while the rest voted against it.

Washington House passes bill to eliminate advisory votes on tax increases

An amendment was introduced that would open the bill to the people as a referendum and put portions of the bill up for a vote, but the Democratic majority in the House rejected the amendment.

“The underlying bill removes from the Revised Code of Washington statutes that the Supreme Court or other courts have invalidated. So they are defunct, they no longer exist, as a practical matter, but they’re sitting there in the Revised Code of Washington, which is confusing when you look at it,” said Representative Drew Hansen (D-23) in the Legislature. “The problem is, if you [put it up to a vote], and the people vote to reenact them, they are still unconstitutional. Like it doesn’t alter the Supreme Court’s holding, whether they’re put into play by initiative or by Legislature.”

This decision was hotly contested, as Republican representatives fought against this ruling, including 19th District Rep. Jim Walsh, who noted the court’s 2018 State v. Gregory case stated that “none of these prior decisions held that the death penalty is per se unconstitutional, nor do we.”

“During floor debate, we heard ardent, sensible arguments that without the possibility of a death penalty, some mass murderers would refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies,” Walsh stated in a press release after the bill’s passing in the House. “Killers would hide the details of their crimes, including the locations of their victims’ remains. We also heard that bad laws like SB 5087 deny those victims’ families closure and justice. These are strong reasons why Washington needs the death penalty to be an option, even if it’s one only used rarely.”

In 2018, the Northwest Progressive Institute found in a poll that a whopping 69% of Washington voters supported life-in-prison alternatives to the death penalty, with only 24% expressing support for the death penalty.

Real estate excise tax could become highest in nation with new bill

“This bad bill is just one more sad example of the interests of criminals being put ahead of the interests of victims and their families,” Walsh continued in his statement. “This needs to stop! Instead of burying the issue in a bill as a not-so-technical fix, the people should be allowed to weigh in with open, meaningful debate. That did not happen with this bill.”

Washington initially abolished the death penalty in 1913, but reinstated it in 1919 up until 1975 when Initiative 316 reinstated the ban for a second time.

The bill now goes to Governor Jay Inslee to be signed into law.

MyNorthwest News

Image: Supreme Court Police officers stand on duty outside of the Supreme Court building in Washing...

Associated Press

Supreme Court upholds gun control law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal gun control law that is intended to protect victims of domestic violence.

17 minutes ago

Photo: Woodland Park Zoo's Batu is expecting....

Julia Dallas

Local zoo animals become mothers for the first time

Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium both have news! Two animals are experiencing motherhood for the first time.

14 hours ago

Photo: Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson....

James Lynch

Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson’s fate now in hands of jury

It has been five years since Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed 26-year-old Jesse Sarey who was going through a crisis.

14 hours ago

Steamboat Geyser is protected by a boardwalk and 3-foot fence. (Getty Images)...

Bill Kaczaraba

Lynnwood man creates costly photo opportunity in Yellowstone

A 21-year-old Lynwood man faces legal consequences for his actions near Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

14 hours ago

Photo: A 27-year-old registered Washington sex offender was caught while he was allegedly traveling...

Julia Dallas

Washington sex offender caught allegedly traveling to sexually assault teen

A 27-year-old registered Washington sex offender was caught while he was allegedly traveling to Oregon to sexually assault a teen.

17 hours ago

Photo: Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to ...

Julia Dallas

2 Seattle schools to say goodbye to cell phones in the fall

Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to lock up their cell phones during school hours.

17 hours ago

Gov. Inslee signs bill finding death penalty in WA unconstitutional