Friday, February 15, 2019, the Washington state Senate passed SB 5339, the 2019 bill to end the death penalty.
On Thursday, October 11, 2018 in a 9-0 decision, the Washington Supreme Court declared the death penalty "unconstitutional" making the Evergreen state the twentieth in the country to abolish the death penalty.
In its decision in State v. Gregory, the court found that the death penalty violates the constitution because it is arbitrary and discriminatory, especially with regard to race. Black defendants in Washington are more than four times as likely to be sentenced to death as white defendants. That racial bias, along with geographic bias, unreliability and excessive delays, results in a wholly unfair system.
Previously, a total of 110 executions had been carried out in Washington and its predecessor territories since 1849. All but three were by hanging. Washington abolished the death penalty in 1913, but reinstated it in 1919. The statute remained unchanged until 1975, when it was again abolished. A referendum the same year reinstated it for a second time. Subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings invalidated laws that mandated death sentences and the statute was modified to give detailed procedures for imposing the death penalty. This new law was itself found unconstitutional, and the current law was passed in 1981 to correct these constitutional defects.
Since 1981, five executions have occurred in Washington. Due to the ruling of State v. Gregory, the eight people remaining on Washington's death row all had their sentences commuted to life in prison.
Washington state death penalty abolition partners:
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) represents the Catholic bishops of Washington on issues of public policy. Three dioceses, the Archdiocese of Seattle, the Diocese of Spokane and the Diocese of Yakima, are located in Washington and constitute the WSCC.
The Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is a grassroots, volunteer-driven, statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty.