Published: Sat, October 13, 2018

Washington’s Highest Court Strikes Down State’s Death Penalty

Washington’s Highest Court Strikes Down State’s Death Penalty

Dayva Michael Cross, for stabbing his wife and two teenage stepdaughters to death on March 6, 1999, in King County.

66, convicted in September 2002 of killing Melinda Mercer and Connie LaFontaine Ellis as part of a series of murders across Washington.

Clark Richard Elmore, for the rape and murder of his girlfriend's teenage daughter on April 17, 1995, in Whatcom County. It explains why the 8 men have been sitting on death row combined for more than 100 years.

"The death penalty is becoming increasingly geographically isolated", said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C. -based Death Penalty Information Center.

Convicted February 6, 1998 of one count of aggravated first degree murder for the suffocation/asphyxiation murder of Yoshiko Couch, 65, with a poisonous substance after burglarizing her home, robbing and then raping her January 25, 1997 in Pierce County.

A panel of judges on Thursday unanimously struck down the death penalty in Washington state, ruling that it violates the state constitution.

The ruling Thursday makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment.

"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", the court said.

She added: "Our capital punishment law lacks 'fundamental fairness'".


Washington, which has executed five inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, placed a moratorium on executions in 2014. In the wake of the decision, Inslee released a statement calling the ruling "a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice".

"We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance", the state's supreme court justices wrote in a majority opinion.

They also said that even though the purposes of the death penalty are "retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders", capital punishment fails to serve these goals as it is now applied in the state.

The court did not rule out the possibility that the Legislature could come up with another manner of imposing death sentences, but said the state's longstanding practice was invalid. "The Supreme Court properly ruled the Washington Constitution does not tolerate such an unfair system".

Convicted May 9, 2013 of aggravated first-degree murder for the murder of Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl on January 29, 2011 while she was on duty at the Washington State Reformatory Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County.

But he received the death penalty for murdering another Tacoma woman, 65-year-old Yushiko Couch.

The alternative, trying to revise the state's death penalty to make it constitutional, is unfeasible, and Inslee said he'd veto it anyway.

The key evidence for that fact was an exhaustive study by statisticians at the University of Washington of how the death penalty actually works in that state -- when prosecutors seek it, when juries impose it, who eventually gets the needle. Reuven Carlyle, who had been a sponsor of those previous attempts, said in a text message.

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