HOUSE BILL 1909 (excerpted)

State of Washington 61st Legislature 2009 Regular Session


Read first time 02/02/09. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

AN ACT Relating to reducing criminal justice expenses by eliminating the death penalty in favor of life incarceration.


NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. (1) The legislature recognizes that questions about the administration of the death penalty in Washington have existed since a 2003 plea bargain for Gary Leon Ridgway, the acknowledged murderer of forty-eight women. In a March 30, 2006, decision, the Washington supreme court was divided five to four over whether Washington's capital punishment system is applied fairly. The five justice majority concluded that the fact that Ridgway "will live out his life in prison instead of facing the death penalty has caused many in our community to seriously question whether the death penalty can, in fairness, be proportional when applied to any other defendant . . . it is a question best left to the people and to their elected representatives in the Legislature." The four justice dissent reasoned, after review of Washington's death penalty statute over the twenty-five years of its existence, that "the death penalty is like lightning, randomly striking some defendants and not others," and concluded that "no rational explanation exists to explain why some individuals escape the penalty of death and others do not."

(2) The legislature finds that historically most death sentences imposed in Washington have been reversed and the death sentence has been rarely imposed. In light of the very substantial pressures that exist upon the criminal justice system, the legislature further finds that the continued allocation of substantial public resources to capital trials and appeals can no longer be sustained. The legislature finds that these resources would be better directed toward maintaining the state's criminal justice system, and concludes that the aims of justice will be served by forever confining to our state's correctional system those whose heinous crimes may formerly have qualified them for the death penalty.

Sec. 2. RCW 10.95.030 and 1993 c 479 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:

Any person convicted of the crime of aggravated first degree murder shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole. A person sentenced to life imprisonment under this section shall not have that sentence suspended, deferred, or commuted by any judicial officer and the indeterminate sentence review board or its successor may not parole such prisoner nor reduce the period of confinement in any manner whatsoever including but not limited to any sort of good-time calculation. The department of social and health services or its successor or any executive official may not permit such prisoner to participate in any sort of release or furlough program.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 3. An inmate sentenced to death prior to the effective date of this act, upon motion to the sentencing court, shall be resentenced to a term of life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole. If an inmate sentenced to death prior to the effective date of this act fails to file a motion under this section within sixty days of the effective date of this act, the department of corrections shall file a motion with the sentencing court to resentence the inmate to a term of life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 4. The following acts or parts of acts (related to existing death penalty statute) are each repealed: ...

NEW SECTION. Sec. 5. This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in