Washington State's Supreme Court Declares Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Gov. Jay Inslee left addresses a news conference with Attorney General Bob Ferguson following an earlier announcement that Washington’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state’s death penalty Thursday Oct. 11 2018 in Olympia Wash. Washi

Washington has become has become the 20th U.S. state to ban the death penalty, after its Supreme Court ruled the punishment was applied in an "arbitrary and racially biased manner".

And the justices said black defendants are more than four times as likely to receive the death penalty as white defendants for the same crimes. Though the current death penalty law can no longer be used, the legislature could technically try to pass a bill that fixes the problems with the death penalty (i.e. make it not inequitable and racially biased), or they just could just pass Carlyle's bill and abolish it all together.

She added: "Our capital punishment law lacks 'fundamental fairness'".

Washington's Supreme Court showed courage in refusing to allow racism to infect life and death decisions.

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"Now the information is plainly before us", Fairhurst wrote. "To the extent that race distinguishes the cases, it is clearly impermissible and unconstitutional".

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee had already placed a moratorium on executions in 2014. "The court recognized that Washington state's death penalty is broken".

The case was brought by Allen Gregory, sentenced to death for the 1996 rape and murder of 43-year-old Geneine Harshfield in her home in Tacoma. His lawyers said the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and that it is not applied proportionally, as the state constitution requires.

"The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an "arbitrary and racially biased manner, ' is 'unequally applied" and serves no criminal justice goal", the statement said. Originally convicted and sentenced to death on May 25, 2001, Gregory's case was overturned by the Washington Supreme Court on November 30, 2006.

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Advocates for capital punishment argue it should be available for those who commit the worst crimes.

In Thursday's decision, the court did not rule out the possibility that the Legislature could come up with another manner of imposing death sentences.

The ruling follows recent legislative efforts to eliminate capital punishment in the state, which last executed a prisoner in 2010.

"On the other hand, when the Green River Killer can murder more than 40 women and get life in prison, it causes people to look at that and say, 'Well, how can anyone be sentenced to death who commits one murder, '" he said.

In July, Ferguson met with legislative leaders to discuss a survey of more than 600 voters which found that almost 70 percent preferred an alternative to the death penalty.

Campbell welcomed the ruling, but also said he can understand why family members of his father's victims wanted to see his father executed.

Washington becomes the 20th state to outlaw executions, said the American Civil Liberties Union. "That disparity can be described by many words-but justice is not one of them". She called the justices "a bunch of dummies" who can not relate to what she has had to live with.

Dunham said it was important that the ruling was based on the facts of Washington's use of capital punishment. "We are not getting the justice we deserve".


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