Did Procedural Mix-Up Cause Anti-Death Penalty Bill to “Die” in Legislature?
There was so much hype about this proposed legislation which would replace the death penalty with life in prison.
This effort began just about one year ago, when Gov. Inslee announced last February he was putting a moratorium, or stay, on all pending executions on Washington state's death row.
There are currently 9 men on death row at the Penitentiary in Walla Walla, one of them has been there since 1991! Jonathan Lee Gentry was convicted of the fatal bludgeoning of a 12-year-old girl in Kitsap County in 1988, meaning he's been awaiting execution for 24 years. Gov. Inslee wanted to suspend executions until an "overhaul" could be conducted on the state's judicial system, which he claims is outdated and unfair in certain areas.
House Bill 1739 received a public hearing earlier this week and was heavily being pushed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. According to media reports and information from Ferguson's office, the bill had significant bi-partisan support, and appeared to be headed for passage. It was also heavily supported by Gov. Inslee.
But according to Q13Fox TV, the bill was scheduled for a vote Thursday with the House Judiciary Committee, but was not brought up before a key policy bill deadline...meaning, time literally ran out before it could be voted on. It appears due to a clerical or procedural error, the House "forgot" to vote on it!
However, the Committee chairwoman said she didn't think it was the right time to move forward with it.
It's almost a moot point, with Gov. Inslee suspending any pending executions indefinitely. But at least until the next legislative session, the death penalty will remain intact.
Some legislative observers say once the public got word of the bill, there was extreme pressure put on the legislature NOT to abolish it, but Committee officials won't confirm that.
Inslee's moratorium has been difficult for the surviving members of victims families whose killers sit on death row. The father of 12-year-old Cassie Holden, Frank Holden, is extremely upset Inslee is standing in the way of the execution of the man who killed his daughter. Cassie had been visiting her mother who lived in Kitsap County, in the summer of 1988. She was murdered by Gentry, who was convicted using a DNA test that was run twice, and other compelling evidence.
Gentry was to have been executed by lethal injection last spring, but Inslee's moratorium kept that from happening.