Death penalty challenge going nowhere this year

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A bill to abolish Washington's death penalty died Thursday.

The state House Judiciary Committee did not address the bill Thursday, which was the last day that the committee will meet this week. Friday is the cut-off deadline for getting policy-only bills out of committee for any further consideration during the 2015 legislative session.

Committee chair Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the general public is not ready to repeal the death penalty, and the bill's purpose this session was to promote public discussion on the topic. The thought is that discussion can prepare the way for a more receptive public in the future. She said the strategy is similar to the public gradually becoming more receptive to gay marriage, which the Legislature passed in 2012.

A bipartisan group of four representatives had introduced the bill. A Wednesday committee hearing on the subject brought strong support for repealing the death penalty. Only the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs testified against the bill, which was introduced by Reps. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah.

On Wednesday, Carlyle, Walsh, Orwall and Magendanz argued that imposing the death penalty is prohibitively expensive, and they pointed to the chance of erroneously sending an innocent person to Death Row.

Nine people are currently on Washington’s Death Row. A year ago, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on executions that will last until he leaves office. Some death penalty opponents have criticized his approach as failing to resolve the question.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8