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Governor Inslee halts death penalty: “During my term, we will not be executing people”

Governor Jay Inslee this morning imposed a moratorium on capital punishment while he is Washington State’s chief executive, declaring at a news conference in Olympia that after much reflection and discussion with victims’ families, police, and prosecutors, he had come to the conclusion that equal justice wasn’t being served.

“If a death penalty case comes to my desk for action, I will issue a reprieve,” Inslee told reporters. “What this means is that those on death row will remain in prison for the rest of their lives. Nobody is getting out of prison, period.”

“I have previously supported capital punishment,” he went on. “And I don’t question the hard work and judgment of the county prosecutors who bring these cases or the judges who rule on them. But my review of the law in Washington State and my responsibilities as Governor have led me to reevaluate that position.”

“With my action today, I expect Washington State will join a growing national
conversation about capital punishment. I welcome that, and I’m confident that our
citizens will engage in this very important debate.”

This is truly a great day for the State of Washington. We extend our deepest and most heartfelt thanks to Governor Inslee for this just, moral, and wise decision. Our state has long been in need of elected leaders who are capable of real leadership. It takes courage and good judgment to be a real leader.

Jay Inslee showed both courage and sound judgment today, and for that, we applaud him. This is one of his finest hours as our state’s chief executive.

While the death penalty in Washington still needs to be repealed, placing a moratorium on executions is a crucially important first step towards outlawing this barbaric and inhumane practice. The death penalty simply has no place in a modern society. It goes against our state’s finest traditional values. It needs to end.

The evidence shows that the death penalty does not deter crime, nor does it provide closure to the families of victims. The taking of life simply does not justify the taking of further life. Furthermore, the risk of executing an innocent person cannot be eliminated. On that basis alone, the death penalty should be abolished.

Senator Jeanine Kohl-Welles, who serves with NPI President Gael Tarleton in the Legislature from the 36th District, called Inslee’s move “simple and profound”.

“Capital punishment can never bring about justice, as it is a far harsher punishment to victims’ families, communities and taxpayers than it ever could be for the perpetrator,” Kohl-Welles said in a statement praising Inslee.

“There is nothing straightforward about this issue. But I hope the governor’s moratorium will give us the necessary pause to re-evaluate the way we think about crime, punishment and crime prevention in Washington.”

Reuven Carlyle, the 36th LD’s other state lawmaker, voiced the same sentiments.

“I deeply appreciate Governor Inslee’s actions today and leadership around the importance of an open, healthy, vibrant public dialogue about converting our death penalty into life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Carlyle said.”

“As the sponsor of legislation for the past five years on this topic I feel a profound sense of moral responsibility to elevate the dialogue in our state. It is a powerful indication of the changing sentiment in Washington State and nationally when we see eighteen states that have outlawed the death penalty and seven states have imposed a moratorium. For all of us in public life, the pain of knowing the suffering of victims must be balanced with an equitable, enforceable public policy.

“I believe the death penalty is below us as a civilized society and I look forward to a respectful, authentic public conversation about legislation on this issue.”

Kohl-Welles and Carlyle have for years sponsored legislation to repeal the death penalty in Washington, which we at NPI appreciate.

“Governor Inslee’s action today announcing his moratorium on the death penalty was a courageous act of leadership based on practical considerations of its enormous costs and its unfairness,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, adding, “Who receives the death penalty depends more on geography and economic means than anything else. The ACLU congratulates the Governor and looks forward to working with the Legislature.”

Over the last few years, six states have done away with the death penalty, and we look forward to the day when Washington joins them.

With Governor Inslee’s courageous action today, we at least know no one will be put to death by the state over the next three years.