Washington state Supreme Court ends state's death penalty


Washington's Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that the death penalty is unconstitutional, ending the practice in the state.

The court ordered that the eight people now on death row in Washington should have their sentences converted to life in prison.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington in 2014, and on Thursday he called the opinion a "hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice". Furthermore, it is "invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner".

The ruling Friday makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment. Their report showed that although prosecutors were not more likely to seek the execution of black defendants, juries were about four times more likely to sentence black defendants to death.

"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", Inslee wrote. Because its ruling is based entirely in the state constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court can not overturn it.

Reconvicted May 15, 2012 of first-degree aggravated murder for the rape and murder of 43-year-old Geneine "Genie" Harshfield on July 26, 1996 in Pierce County.

Capital punishment has been on the decline in the United States for several years, but the Administration of Republican President Donald Trump has said it is considering expanding its use for some federal crimes. Among them was former Justice Faith Ireland, who sided with the narrow majority in upholding capital punishment in 2006.

The law also requires the court to consider as part of its review whether the death sentence is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

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"We leave open the possibility that the legislature may enact a "carefully drafted statute" to impose capital punishment in this state, but it can not create a system that offends constitutional rights", the opinion said.

In 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court abolished the death penalty.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said that he plans to ask the Legislature to move next session to take the death penalty law off the books, something Inslee said he'd sign.

The court ruled 9-0 to strike down the death penalty. Davis is one of eight men who had been on death row at the State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. "Next session, I will again propose legislation repealing the death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole".

"The fight over the death penalty was whether we could hasten the date of their death or not".

Convicted May 9, 2013 of aggravated first-degree murder for the murder of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl on January 29, 2011 while she was on duty at the Washington State Reformatory Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County. Reuven Carlyle, who had been a sponsor of those previous attempts, said in a text message.

The Pierce County Prosecutor's office countered that the racial disparity study was fatally flawed and should not have been considered by the Supreme Court.