Testimony Against death penalty task force proposal

Summary of testimony in opposition to a proposed 2007 state law to create a death penalty task force to review existing death penalty laws and court rules. (The proposed legislation was not passed.)

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This bill is not a good idea. It does not move the debate on this issue forward in any meaningful way. There have already been numerous studies of the death penalty in Washington, including the recently completed 18-month study by the Washington State Bar Association. The actual data on death penalty cases show that there is not a statistical basis for saying that we have disproportionately imposed the death penalty based on race. In addition, if you look at the data, you can't make the statistical argument, at least on a collective basis, that there is a difference in imposition of the death penalty between large and small counties.

What this bill is really about is Gary Ridgway. The Supreme Court recently upheld a death sentence based on the statutory and constitutional grounds that it was not a freakish or wanton imposition of the death penalty. People may not agree that the plea agreement with Gary Ridgway was the right decision, but no one can say that it was irrational or freakish or wanton. What the Supreme Court said in the (case challenging the death penalty) is that this is a moral question that is up to the Legislature. This (proposed review) avoids the moral question of whether or not we should impose death sentences. It is just more of the same thing we have been doing for the past 25 years.

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