Victims' families weigh in on Gov. Inslee's execution moratorium

Wrenching testimony before the Senate's Law & Justice Committee on Wednesday. Families say governor didn't consult with them before ordering the halt.
Sherry Shaver, whose daughter was brutally murdered, testifies about Jay Inslee's death penalty moratorium.

Sherry Shaver, whose daughter was brutally murdered, testifies about Jay Inslee's death penalty moratorium. John Stang

In 1996, 22-year-old Telisha Shaver was a sunny golf fanatic from Spokane Valley who had just been accepted to her first Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament. Her boyfriend thought she was pregnant, a question that still haunts Telisha's mom.

On an April Saturday dawn, Dwayne Woods, the short-time boyfriend of Venus Shaver, Telisha's sister, showed up at the mobile home where 19-year-old Venus was housesitting. Venus’s 18-year-old friend Jade Moore was there too.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Woods attacked Venus Shaver first, stabbing her and hitting her in the head with a baseball bat. Then he woke up Moore with a knife to her throat, before raping, stabbing and beating her.

Then Telisha Shaver showed up at the mobile home later that morning -- and ,was raped, stabbed and beaten unconscious. Woods ordered Moore to cut Telisha Shaver's throat..She refused. He smacked Moore with the bat some more. Then Venus' and Telisha's mother Sherry Shaver arrived to view the carnage and see Woods run away. She chased Woods, but did not catch him.

"Do you think I wouldn't have killed him on the spot? Wouldn't you?" Sherry Shaver asked the Washington Senate's Law & Justice Committee Wednesday.

Telisha Shaver died without regaining consciousness. Venus Shaver recovered, but had no memory of what happened. Moore identified Woods as the killer before she died. Woods is one of nine men on Washington's Death Row in Walla Walla.

"The only peace we can have as a family is his death,” said Sherry Shaver. Then, remembering the question of her daughter’s pregnancy, Shaver added: "To this day, I wonder whether this would be good news or bad news."

Family members of victims killed by men on Death Row testified Wednesday in favor of a bill introduced by Sen. Steve O'Ban (below), R-Pierce County. The measure would require a recommendation from the Washington Clemency and Pardons Board before a death sentence could be commuted.

O'Ban's bill is a reaction against Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent moratorium on executions while he is in office. None of the current death sentences was commuted, meaning a future governor could lift the moratorium and green light the nine stalled executions. 

Inslee is troubled by the inconsistent use of the death penalty, by questions about whether it really is a deterrent to murder and by the high costs of the decades-long efforts to execute a person on Death Row. Thirty-two people have been sentenced to death in Washington since 1981. Of that number, one has been freed and 18 have had their sentences converted to life in prison. Washington's Constitution gives Inslee the legal power to declare a moratorium on executions.

None of the family members who testified was contacted by Inslee prior to his decision. "It's the most insensitive act I've seen from a governor in Washington's history," said Sen.Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, who attended a pre-hearing press conference on the bill.

O'Ban argued that Inslee overstepped his authority, but acknowledged he cannot do anything legislatively to end the current moratorium. His bill targets Inslee's successors, said O’Ban, "so the next governor cannot assign a similar moratorium."

In their testimonies, family members of murder victims, a corrections officer and three prosecutors backed O'Ban's bill and slammed Inslee's moratorium. Some argued that commuting or delaying death sentences should be handled on a case-by-case basis. "The blanket moratorium sends a message to correctional employees that it's OK to have a target on their backs, " said Monroe Correctional Center Sgt. Michael Boe, the officer who found corrections officer Jayme Biendl after she was strangled by inmate Byron Scherf in 2011. Scherf is now on Death Row.

Ed Oster's daughter Sunny was one of 16 women murdered mostly in Spokane by Robert Yates during the 1990s. Yates is on Death Row. "If you put them to sleep, they never get to kill again,” said Oster. “He committed suicide when he killed all those women."


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Feb 27, 8:14 a.m. Inappropriate

In a certain respect, Inslee's moratorium may serve as an incentive for practicing DIY (do-it-yourself) vigilante-style justice in situations where a violent crime is taking place. Knowing that the state won't inflict its most drastic punishment, friends or family members of the victim(s) may feel compelled now to act on their own.

Posted Thu, Feb 27, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Inslee should've taken the death penalty away as an option MOVING FORWARD. The existing cases should be grandfathered in; they should get the punishment they were given by the court.

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Feb 27, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm with you BlueLight. And the insensitivity shown the families of the victims (i.e., the "victims") is breathtaking. If Inslee didn't have the stomach lining to do it himself, he should have tasked a staffer or two with the job of making some advance calls so that they weren't blindsided by this decision?

Posted Thu, Feb 27, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Governor Inslee has mentioned inconsistency between counties as a reason for the moratorium and I think that has been expanded upon in press coverage to imply that some (nameless) judges and juries in some (nameless) counties in our state have a hair trigger. This is not confirmed by a reading of the death row list maintained by the Dept. of Corrections (see link below). Spokane and Whatcom County sent two murderers to death row; the remaining seven inmates are from Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties. A description of the crimes involved in these convictions are nearly all male on female attacks, a combination murder and rape. There is no suggestion of inconsistency; no aggravated traffic violations with intent for example. Commenting as he does in such a general way (moral aversion to the death penalty)is a lax and indecisive response. It makes no choice and exonerates no one, nothing is decided, just postponed. It tells us something about our Governor that he thinks this is a courageous stance.

http://www.doc.wa.gov/offenderinfo/capitalpunishment/sentencedlist.asp

kieth

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