Walla Walla man heads anti-death penalty coalition




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WALLA WALLA — A city man has been named the new board president of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

James Robles, a retired Boeing engineer and executive, was named to lead the board of directors for the nonprofit agency during its annual summit and board meeting on Oct. 13 in Bellevue. Robles has served on the board since November 2011.

Also named to the board was Dick Morgan, retired director of Washington state prisons and a fellow Walla Walla resident, Robles said.

Robles and his wife, Janet, moved to Walla Walla in 2008 while he was still employed at Boeing. Robles maintained a commute to the west side for about a year, before officially retiring in 2009 from his long career with the company.

Walla Walla was chosen by the Robleses as an ideal place to retire in part for the wine culture, and because “it was the only place we could agree on,” he said.

Robles has dedicated his retirement so far to giving back to the community, after living what he described as an easy life.

Robles followed in his father’s footsteps to become an engineer. The senior Robles was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, but was raised in the U.S. from age 2. Although James Robles grew up speaking English, he maintained ties to his father’s Mexican heritage. Robles said he is passionate about supporting human rights and supporting the local Latino community.

Retirement has also afforded Robles time to seek a master’s degree in environmental management issues through the American Public University System. Robles also spent some time supporting Walla Walla’s Sustainable Living Center.

Robles has what he calls a long-term objection to the death penalty and its inconsistencies.

The Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been lobbying the Legislature to consider replacing the death penalty for what it argues is the more just, and more economical, life imprisonment without parole for the harshest crimes.

“We’re all the same,” Robles said. “It is never right to take the life of a human being.”

The coalition has been collecting data and statistics to illustrate logical, not just compassionate reasons, for doing away with the death penalty. Some of that data shows that in states where the death penalty is in place, murder rates are actually higher. The coalition is also working on illustrating the true cost of supporting the death penalty and putting inmates to death.

Robles’ leadership post runs one year, but he hopes to make some waves in that time by increasing awareness locally and in the state. There are community events in the works early into the new year, including a guest visit from an author and an action day on which people are encouraged to travel to Olympia to work with legislators.

“I’d like to make a little noise in Walla Walla about what we’re doing,” he said.


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