“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
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. 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.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
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.