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October 11, 2018

Washington Supreme Court strikes down state's death penalty based on its arbitrary administration

I am on road and so unable to read or comment on this big unanimous opinion. I hope to be able to do so before too long.

UPDATE:  Here is how the opinion for the court in Washington v. Gregory starts and ends:

Washington's death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional not once, not twice, but three times.  State v. Baker, 81 Wn.2d 281, 501 P.2d 284 (1972); State v. Green, 91 Wn.2d 431, 588 P.2d 1370 (1979); State v. Frampton, 95 Wn.2d 469, 627 P.2d 922 (1981).  And today, we do so again.  None of these prior decisions held that the death penalty is per se unconstitutional, nor do we.  The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.  As noted by appellant, 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 death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our state constitution....

Under article I, section 14, we hold that Washington's death penalty is unconstitutional, as administered, because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.  Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals.  Pursuant to RCW 10.95.090, "if the death penalty established by this chapter is held to be invalid by a final judgment of a court which is binding on all courts in the state, the sentence for aggravated first degree murder ... shall be life imprisonment."  All death sentences are hereby converted to life imprisonment.

October 11, 2018 at 01:14 PM | Permalink


Has there been any argument about the Constitutionality of the death penalty that wasn't said in Furman and Gregg?

Posted by: Erik M | Oct 11, 2018 9:33:54 PM

The Washington Supreme Court spits in the faces of victims. Slime.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 12, 2018 1:49:56 AM

15.000 murders. 10.000 cleared, 5.000 good for the death penalty. Less than 50 capital punishment convitions, which will became 5 executions in 10, 20, 39 and more years.
Who is splitting ??????

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Oct 12, 2018 8:22:45 AM

Federalist, I know how frustrating it must be to be on the wrong end of history, but the times are changing:

20 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Below is a table of the 20 states and the date that the state abolished the death penalty.

State Year

Alaska 1957
Connecticut 2012
Delaware 2016
District of C 1981
Hawaii 1957
Illinois 2011
Iowa 1965
Maine 1887
Maryland 2013
Massachusetts 1984
Michigan 1846
Minnesota 1911
New Jersey 2007
New Mexico 2009
New York 2007
North Dakota 1975
Rhode Island 1984
Puerto Rico 1929
Vermont 1972
Washington 2018
West Virginia 1965
Wisconsin 1853

Posted by: anon1 | Oct 12, 2018 12:22:17 PM

Simple easy fact checking shows no racial bias by jurors.

If only 2% more whites (4 cases) and only 1.7% fewer blacks (1 case) were sentenced to death, jurors would have sentenced both groups to death, at the exact same rate - 14%.

Considering the many variables in every death penalty case, it's hard to imagine jurors being more fair and equal in death sentencing, the opposite of the coverage.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Oct 14, 2018 7:55:54 AM

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