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March 31, 2006

Fascinating Washington decision on the death penalty

As this AP article from Washington details, yesterday a "strongly divided state Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a man who fatally stabbed his wife and her two daughters, with dissenting justices calling the state's capital punishment system flawed, arbitrary and irrational."  As the article further explains, the "5-4 ruling largely hinged on Dayva Cross' argument that he should not be executed while the state's most prolific murderer, Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, spends his life in prison."

The opinions in State v. Cross, No. 71267-1 (Wash. Mar. 30, 2006), are fascinating.  (The majority opinion is here, the dissent here.)  Additional effective local press coverage of the ruling is available here and here and here.  This opening passage from the dissenting opinion provides a flavor of the debate:

Properly recognizing and analyzing what has happened in the administration of capital cases in this state inevitably leads to the conclusion that the sentence of death in this case, and generally, is disproportionate to the sentences imposed in similar cases.  Contrary to what we had expected to find when we established an analytical framework to conduct our statutory review, that the worst of the worst offenders would be subject to the death penalty, what has happened is the worst offenders escape death.  When Gary Ridgway, the worst mass murderer in this state's history, escapes the death penalty, serious flaws become apparent.  The Ridgway case does not "stand alone," as characterized by the majority, but instead is symptomatic of a system where all mass murderers have, to date, escaped the death penalty.

March 31, 2006 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

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