Washington State Tosses Death Penalty

State Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional, strikes it down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 11, 2018 2:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – Washington's Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty Thursday, ruling that it had been used in an arbitrary and racially discriminatory manner, the AP reports. Washington has had a moratorium on executions since 2014, but the ruling makes it the 20th state to do away with capital punishment. The court unanimously converted the sentences of the eight people on death row to life in prison, though the justices differed mildly in their reasoning. "The use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant," Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote in the lead opinion. She added: "Our capital punishment law lacks 'fundamental fairness.'"

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Gov. Jay Inslee, a one-time supporter of capital punishment, imposed the moratorium, saying that no executions would take place while he's in office. In a written statement, Inslee called the ruling "a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice." "The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an 'arbitrary and racially biased manner,' is 'unequally applied' and serves no criminal justice goal," Inslee wrote. The ruling was in the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, a black man who was convicted of raping, robbing, and killing Geneine Harshfield, a 43-year-old woman, in 1996. His lawyers said the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and that it is not applied proportionally, as the state Constitution requires.

(Read more death penalty stories.)

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