Bill Introduced to Abolish Death Penalty in Washington
Two measures, House Bill 1739 and Senate Bill 5639, would replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. It would also require the defendant to work in prison with the money generated being given as restitution towards the victim's families.
Unlike some controversial measures, this has bipartisan support. The House bill has been fronted by a Democrat, the Senate version by a Republican. Their reasons for wanting to do away with it might surprise you.
Currently 32 states still have the death penalty as an option, and advocates say it's a deterrent towards violent crime in many circumstances. Critics of these bills say too many legislators are getting soft on crime.
But the reasons behind this bill are largely economical. The bill is supported by GOP Legislator Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla. She and other legislators say death penalty cases simply cost the state too much money. A recent Seattle University study claims death penalty cases, on average, cost the state at least $1 million more than those involving life in prison.
Currently 9 men are on Death Row in Walla Walla. Gov. Inslee has placed a moratorium on any pending executions until a review of the judicial system is completed. The legislators who support the bill say it's time to revisit the idea, despite several failed attempts in the past to abolish it.
Washington state has executed 78 prisoners, all men, since it was officially adopted in 1904. There were several executions prior to that, but the state had not formally included the penalty as part of it's judicial system. The last execution occurred in 2010, when Cal Brown was lethally injected for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman. He spent 17 years on death row, mostly due to appeals and delays.
It's those delays that legislators say costs the state too much money, and the penalty should be abolished.