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February 11, 2014

Washington Gov declares moratorium on executions during his term

InsleeAs reported in this new Seattle Times article, headlined "Inslee halts executions in state while he is governor," in the Evergreen State the Governor has decided to use his clemency power to create a (temporary?) moratorium on executions.  Here are the basics:

Gov. Jay Inslee is calling a moratorium on executions while he is governor. “Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee said during a news conference Tuesday morning. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

Inslee said there was “too much at stake” in death penalty cases in what he termed an “imperfect system.” Inslee cited the high cost of trials and appeals, the apparent randomness in which death penalties are pursued and concerns that executions do not deter crime as reasons for his decision. Inslee said he is not asking the state Legislature to abolish the death penalty.

“As governor, it is on my shoulders to come up with a decision for our whole state,” Inslee said. “I have made a decision. It is not an easy one.”

There are currently nine men on Washington’s death row. He said that if a death penalty case crosses his desk for action, he will issue a reprieve, which will potentially only be in effect while Inslee is governor. He said he does not intend to commute any death sentences. “The citizens of the state of Washington can be assured the men of death row will be in prison for as long as they live,” he said.

When questioned, Inslee acknowledged the moratorium may not necessarily save money, particularly since appeals will still likely be filed. However, the move could prompt county prosecutors to not seek the death penalty in some cases, thus realizing some savings....

“Washington’s Constitution and state statutes grant the governor significant powers over the fate of individuals sentenced to death,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday morning. “Consequently, the governor has the authority to hit the ’pause’ button for executions in Washington.”

However, Ferguson said his office will continue to represent the state when death-row inmates file challenges to their convictions or sentences with the federal courts. Currently, there are four such cases before the federal courts, he said....

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, in a written statement, said the legal ramifications of Inslee’s “reprieve policy” appear limited and that state law remained unchanged. However, he said in the short term it is likely to cause more delays, expense and uncertainty. “A moratorium alone will not resolve the issues raised by the Governor,” Satterberg said. “Let’s have an informed public debate and let the citizens of Washington decide if we should keep capital punishment in our state.”

The death penalty has come under fire in Washington state for a variety of reasons, including what some have termed inconsistencies in when it is sought. For example, in the case of Green River Killer Gary L. Ridgway, King County prosecutors gave up on capital punishment in exchange for his cooperation in providing detectives details that helped solve dozens of open murder cases. Ridgway pleaded guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, has repeatedly introduced legislation to ban the death penalty Of the governor’s moratorium, Carlye said, “It’s a profound shift. He has opened a legitimate conversation. … It sets in motion a legitimate and genuine public conversation.”

But he said the moratorium would not likely spur legislative action this year, noting that last Friday was the cutoff for non-budget-related bills to make it out of committee. “In 2015, we will ask the public to join us in this conversation,” said Carlyle, who will push for a bill then.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, disagreed with Inslee’s decision, calling it “shortsighted.”

“I think that is going off on his own and is certainly nothing the Legislature has authorized,” Padden said, noting that Inslee had not consulted him. “I question it, I really do,” Padden said of the moratorium. “To victims it’s the wrong message. The relatives who have suffered the deaths. They have gone through 10 years or more of waiting. ... For the governor to unilaterally take that away I think is wrong.”

Cal Coburn Brown, the last person executed in the state, died by lethal injection in September 2010 for the 1991 murder of Holly Washa in SeaTac. Jonathan Lee Gentry, sentenced for the 1988 murder of 12-year-old Cassie Holden in Kitsap County, is expected to be the next inmate in line to be executed.. Last month, the state Supreme Court rejected a petition for release filed by Gentry’s defense team. Gentry just filed another appeal, based on DNA testing.

Cassie Holden’s father, Frank Holden, said Tuesday he was angry at Inslee and devastated by his decision. He said he spoke with the governor for the first time Monday night when Inslee called to tell him about the moratorium. “There wasn’t much of a discussion. There wasn’t much of a chance for input. He had this thing all planned out,” Holden said, adding that the only thing he was able to tell Inslee was that he was disappointed in his decision.”

“I’ve waited 26 years for justice to happen and now it’s not going to happen because of him. It went through every court system possible,” Holden said, speaking from his business in Pocatello, Idaho. Holden said he thinks about his daughter every day; she would now be 37. “After he told me what he was doing it was nothing compared to the death of my daughter, but it was up there,” Holden said.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said Tuesday morning he is disappointed by Inslee’s announcement and its potential impact on Gentry’s case. Hauge said he could “see an end in sight” for the Gentry case, because after more than 20 years the man had exhausted most of his appeals. “If ever there was a case that warranted the death penalty, it’s the case of Jonathan Gentry. This is exactly this is what the statute was meant to address,” Hauge said.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said Inslee is not be the first governor in the nation to oppose the death penalty. Last year, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to an inmate who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in 1993 after finding the state’s death penalty system to be “imperfect and inherently inequitable,” according to The Denver Post. Dieter said the move means that the inmate won’t be executed while Hickenlooper is governor.

The full text of Governor Inslee’s remarks announcing his execution moratorium can be accessed at this link.

February 11, 2014 at 06:42 PM | Permalink


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When your state has a handful of people on death row and five people were executed total since 1964, this sort of thing probably is less notable.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 11, 2014 7:27:25 PM

Great News!!

Posted by: Kathy Coleman | Feb 11, 2014 7:36:38 PM

Kathy Coleman--you are a thoroughly disgusting human being. Exulting in the devastating news for poor Cassie Holden's father is beyond the pale. It's one thing to oppose capital punishment--quite another to exult.

It must, of course, be remembered that Cassie Holden's family didn't ask to be part of this long slog to justice--rather it was the capital murderer that chose to involve them. Now, yet another 'rat is showing that the interests of capital murderers are more important than those of victims' families.

I'd go through the statement, but what's the point. The 'rat's just justifying his foregone conclusion and affinity for capital murderers.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 11, 2014 9:44:33 PM

federalist, you just accept that a certain minority of folks do not support capital punishment. Some of these folks happen to have been elected governors of their respective states. E.g., Washington, Oregon, Illinois, etc. You consider them "rats"; others consider them morally courageous. The answer? The next election.

Posted by: observer | Feb 11, 2014 11:03:26 PM

Kent Scheidegger takes apart Jay Inslee piece by piece, http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2014/02/one-more-cowardly-moratorium.html

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 11, 2014 11:10:35 PM

This man has no vengeance! Where's the vengeance?! Vengeance, oh sad sad day, has lost!

Posted by: Neanderthal | Feb 11, 2014 11:36:53 PM

Perfectly crafted decision to generate lawyer make work appellate jobs, crafted by a lawyer. Just like the decisions of the Supreme Court.

I agree it is unfair for the Green River killer got LWOP. After the first conviction, he should have been water boarded 12 hours a day, to solve the dozens of other cases, until the day of his execution.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 12, 2014 1:23:04 AM

"The answer? The next election."

Nope. That Inslee is a criminal coddling 'rat (but I repeat myself) cannot be changed by an election. It's proven by looking at the obvious. His "reasoning" is pathetically bereft (what is it about 'rats and explaining their reasons for siding with child-killers over the child's family?). Therefore, this is simply how the 'rat rolls. Maybe Mr. Gentry will get placed in the general population, and some guard will look the other way. As lawless as that is, it's preferable to me than Gentry escaping his punishment. Don't like it, well, there's an election. Funny, the elections keep happening, and baby-rapers keep getting theirs in the joint. Guess the Rousseauian scoreboard pointing only goes one way. Funny that.

Surely, observer, you understand the difference between not supporting capital punishment, and yanking the rug out from under a victim's family who, as you know, didn't ask to have their daughter's head bashed in with a rock. No election in the world is going to cover up that stench.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 12, 2014 1:35:21 AM

| This man has no vengeance! Where's the vengeance?! Vengeance, oh sad sad day, has lost! |
Posted by “Neanderthal” – Fitting [You’re the fittest? Evolution in doubt.]

| This man [knows not] justice! Justice, oh sad sad day, has lost! |
Posted by Isaiah 5:23

Why cannot protectors of the slayers of Washington bring themselves to condemn evil?
Could it be that they automatically sympathise with the guilty over the innocent, the abortionist over the baby?

How did Liz McDonald on this site (mis)characterise the terrorist of Boston? [4/27-29/13, sentencing law & policy.com]
• “I don't see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as evil. But, I don't see the older brother as evil either.”

• *“I think the death penalty is barbaric in a civilized society.”

• “I see the younger Tsarnaev as completely misguided, lost, making choices that he has not really thought through…”

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 12, 2014 1:32:13 PM

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