State lawmakers to again consider eliminating capital punishment | 2018 Legislative Session

OLYMPIA – A bill to be introduced this session would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state and require people convicted of first-degree murder to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested Senate Bill 6052 after Senate bills proposing the same legislation did not pass through a committee hearing last year.

“I’m reasonably optimistic that this could be the year,” Ferguson said mentioning the bill’s bipartisan sponsorship. “The votes are there.”

Despite other legislative priorities, Ferguson said this year might be different with a democratic majority in the Senate.

“The fact is that taxpayers foot the multi-million dollar appeals process for the accused and we spend $50,000/year for incarceration,” Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, the bill’s prime sponsor, wrote in an email. “A life sentence with NO chance of early release saves money and issues the ultimate punishment by denying the convicted their freedom and liberties for life just as they did their victim.”

Not denying an individual’s right to appeal, Walsh also noted that there are cases in which an individual can be exonerated if new evidence arises.

Still, the appeals process and litigation for these cases can cost the state millions of dollars which Walsh said outweighs the cost of keeping someone in prison for life in many cases.

In a 2015 study from Seattle University’s School of Law examining 147 aggravated first-degree murder cases since 1997, authors estimated the average cost of capital punishment cases to be more than $3 million compared to cases that did not seek the capital punishment to be about $2 million.

The largest differential factors being trial level prosecution costs which are 2.3 times more expensive in capital punishment cases than cases that do not seek the death penalty, court and police costs which are 3.9 times more costly, and appeals which are 5.7 times more costly.

Walsh said the economic argument is a compelling one, but she says stories of the lives affected by the death penalty are also worth discussing.

There are currently eight incarcerated individuals on death row according to Washington Department of Corrections. The last person to be executed in the state was Cal Coburn Brown in 2010.

In February 2014, Governor Jay Inslee instituted a moratorium on executions in Washington state. The moratorium allows Inslee to grant reprieves so no prisoners are executed but does not pardon them. According to a press release last year, capital punishment is “unequally applied” and “sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget.”

Taylor McAvoy is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.

More in News

Bainbridge blotter | BB gun damage

Selected reports from the Bainbridge Island Police Department blotter. MONDAY, JULY 16… Continue reading

Characters come to life at cosplay lab

The soon-to-be-widowed wife of one of the Founding Fathers. One of the… Continue reading

Rolfes honored by fire chiefs

State Sen. Christine Rolfes has been awarded the 2018 Honorary Fire Chiefs… Continue reading

Manning makes honor roll at OSU

Jaime A. Manning of Bainbridge Island has been recognized for outstanding academic… Continue reading

SWERV has guest speaker

All women are invited to attend Savvy Women Exchanging Relevant Views to… Continue reading

From The Big Easy to Bainbridge: Island memorial is latest post for roving ranger

Kevin Mahé makes the trek from Tacoma to Bainbridge three times a… Continue reading

Friends, food and fun at National Night Out | Photo gallery

The annual National Night Out community gathering was held this year, for… Continue reading

Bainbridge blotter | Burning bridges

Selected reports from the Bainbridge Island Police Department blotter. FRIDAY, JULY 20… Continue reading

Bainbridge superintendent gets contract extension

The Bainbridge Island School Board has extended the employment contract for District… Continue reading

Most Read