NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

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While the death penal­ty in Wash­ing­ton still needs to be repealed, plac­ing a mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions is a cru­cial­ly impor­tant first step towards out­law­ing this bar­bar­ic and inhu­mane prac­tice.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.

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