Washington Supreme Court tosses out state's death penalty

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

In a proud day for Washington, the state Supreme Court affirmed Thursday that the death penalty, as applied, is arbitrary, biased and unconstitutional.

The court's majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, states that "the use of the death penalty is unequally applied - sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant".

Washington's Democratic governor Jay Inslee, who was a former supporter of the death penalty, had placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014, saying that executions would not take place while he was in office.

"This is bad", Kathleen O'Bert said after the ruling.

The ruling was made in the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman, Geneine Harshfield, 46, in 1996.

One study shows Blacks were 4.5 times more likely than whites to be sentenced to death.

"Washington's Supreme Court issued an important decision today", said Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Washington is now the 20th state in the country to outlaw the death penalty, and the third where a supreme court has struck it down on grounds of racial bias.

But it was criticized by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights because Washington still has legalized abortion. "Only when it comes to saving the lives of serial rapists, serial killers and genocidal terrorists". Previous laws were ruled unconstitutional in 1972, 1979 and 1981.

Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a measure abolishing the death penalty, but the House didn't pass it. Five justices said the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner".

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"He is a monster, he beat my mom until her head was unrecognizable onto cement steps", Trapp said. "I'm sure our kids would get rid of this if we didn't". "Things don't work that way in the real world". Eight men, including Gregory, were awaiting execution when the court handed down its ruling Thursday morning. "A death sentence has become more randomly and arbitrarily sought and imposed, and fraught with uncertainty and unreliability, and it fails state constitutional examination".

He says that one of the arguments for the death penalty is that it deters murders of correctional officers.

Today's ruling relies extensively on a 2014 report by two University of Washington sociologists, the first to comprehensively study the application of the death penalty in Washington.

"We are continuing to be victimized", said O'Bert.

Padden said he thought it would be hard to craft changes to answer the court's concerns, as well as to get the support in the Legislature to pass it. A citizens' initiative will try, but that may not be possible either, he said.

"The bar may be just too high", he said.

Opponents of the death penalty have fought to abolish it for years. He also asked the justices to review his original conviction. But the ruling gives them certainty that all appeals and hearings are ended.

"At the end of the day these cases are all going to be sent to prison to die", Satterberg said.

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