Washington Gov. Jay Inslee suspends death penalty


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he was suspending the use of the death penalty in Washington state, announcing a move that he hopes will enable officials to “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.”

The Democrat said he came to the decision after months of review, meetings with family members of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement.

According to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press, Inslee said that the use of the death penalty is inconsistent and unequal.

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” he said in the written statement. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served. The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”

The governor’s staff briefed lawmakers about the move on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Inslee’s moratorium means that if a death penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which isn’t a pardon and doesn’t commute the sentences of those condemned to death.

Last year, Maryland abolished the death penalty, the 18th state to do so and the sixth in the last six years.

Nine men await execution at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The state Supreme Court just last month rejected a petition for release from death row inmate Jonathan Lee Gentry, sentenced for the murder of a 12-year-old girl in 1988. Gentry could be the first execution in the state since September 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman. A federal stay had recently been lifted in Gentry’s case, and a remaining state stay on his execution was expected to be lifted this month.

The decision by the governor comes following a recent decision by the state Department of Corrections, which is in the process of changing its execution protocol to allow witnesses to executions to see the entire process, including the insertion of intravenous catheters during a lethal injection.

The new witness protocol, currently a draft that is in its final stages of approval, includes the use of television monitors to show the inmate entering the death chamber and being strapped down, as well as the insertion of the IVs, which had both previously been shielded from public view.

Through public disclosure requests, the AP had sought information about any potential changes to the execution protocols. State corrections officials spoke with the AP about the new procedures late last month.

The change is in response to a 2012 federal appeals court ruling that said all parts of an execution must be fully open to public witnesses. That ruling was sparked by a case brought by the AP and other news organizations who challenged Idaho’s policy to shield the insertion of IV catheters from public view, in spite of a 2002 ruling from the same court that said every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses.


mwood 1 year, 9 months ago

Fundamentally change America. Our President, who "can do whatever he wants" (perhaps a Freudian slip) told us he intends to fundamentally change America. Governor Inslee, another good liberal, says he wants to join a "national conversation about capital punishment." Governor Inslee has announced that he is ‘not convinced equal justice is being served.” Is Inslee imposing his personal beliefs and ignoring the will of the people of the State of Washington? Inslee has concluded the death penalty is being imposed in an “Inconsistent and unequal” manner. Governor Inslee; We here in Washington State have had this conversation.
We have already debated this issue and decided we want capital punishment as a choice for the most heinous of crimes. I cannot help but think of Wesley Allen Dodd, who sexually tortured and killed 3 young boys, a very worthy candidate if anyone was to be executed for his crimes. I ask Washington voters to research the nine people currently on Washington State death row. Please read about the crimes they were convicted of. Take note of any sign of and bias; race, religion, etc. Mr. Governor; if you believe Washington State should not have a capital punishment please use the legislative branch and allow, “We the people” to vote on the issue.” I believe that is the democratic way.


PearlY 1 year, 9 months ago

"Join a conversation"? The conversation has been had - the voters considered, the legislature debated and voted, juries deliberated, the Courts heard arguments, pondered and upheld, and now Dictator Inslee renders all those conversations meaningless.

And why does the U-B personalize the murderers sentenced to death but their victims are nameless: "a 12-year old girl", "a Seattle-area woman"? In this conversation, do they not even get the dignity of a name?

That 12-year old girl was Cassie Holden, raped by the man Inslee is protecting before being beaten to death with a rock. Her family and our state have been waiting for justice for TWENTY-SIX YEARS.

That "Seattle-area woman" was Holly Washa, a 21-year old who stopped her car because Cal Brown signaled her pretending she had a flat. He then car-jacked her, took her at knife-point to a motel and raped and tortured her for 36 hours before slitting her throat and stabbing her to death. He was on parole for a violent sex offense and went on to kidnap another woman, slitting her throat too, although she survived. Is there anyone who can honestly claim the world is worse off for Brown's having been executed for his crimes? The Washa family witnessed his execution - 19 years after his crime - and stated that finally they had closure. I can only be grateful that Jay Inslee had not yet been elevated to his status as Dictator before that.

Maybe Inslee can figure out a way for Cassie and Holly to "join the conversation," along with 14-year old Christy Onstad and 22-year old Telisha Shaver and 18-year old Jade Moore and 65-year old Yoshiko Couch and 37-year old Anouchka Baldwin and 18-year old Salome Holle and 15-year old Amanda Baldwin and 24-year old Melinda Mercer and 35-year old Connie Ellis and 28-year old Olga Milkin and 5-year old Justin Milkin and 3-year old Andrew Milkin and 24-year old Lyubov Botvina and 43-year old Geneine Harshfield and Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl. Those are the victims of the other death-row inmates in Washington.

Or maybe Jay Inslee just doesn't care much about the lives of women and children, and values the lives of men, no matter how depraved and violent, more.

Inslee's fellow liberals have made it extraordinarily expensive for any county to try a death-penalty case, with every opportunity afforded the defendant to the top lawyers, expert witnesses, re-hearings, automatic appeals, etc. Fine. Nobody wants to impose the death penalty on an innocent person. But now they want to use the fact that some counties may not be able to financially bear the burden of such prosecutions as justification to punish the taxpayers of counties that DID choose to carry forward death penalty cases, by depriving them of what they sacrificed to accomplish - justice for the victims and for society.

It's sickening. I hope those who voted for Inslee manage not to think too hard about what they accomplished.


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