Thank you Washington State Senate!
Thank you Washington State Senate! Abolition passes!

This may be the great­est tri­umph yet of the 2018 leg­isla­tive session.

In a land­mark vic­to­ry for human rights and dig­ni­ty, the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate made his­to­ry today by approv­ing leg­is­la­tion that would abol­ish the death penal­ty, end­ing the bar­bar­ic prac­tice of exe­cut­ing peo­ple as a pun­ish­ment for crimes.

Sen­ate Bill 6052, prime spon­sored by Repub­li­can Mau­reen Walsh and request­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, passed with the sup­port of twen­ty-one Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors and four Repub­li­can senators.

In a state­ment, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee praised the Sen­ate for approv­ing SB 6052.

“I would like to thank Sens. Mau­reen Walsh and Reuven Car­lyle, and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, who have been great allies in the fight to end the death penal­ty in Wash­ing­ton state. There has been grow­ing, bipar­ti­san sup­port for end­ing Washington’s death penal­ty, and the Sen­ate today vot­ed to do just that. I know this is an emo­tion­al issue and peo­ple are moved by deeply-held beliefs and val­ues.

“When I put a mora­to­ri­um on the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in 2014, I hoped it would cre­ate space for a dis­cus­sion about the unequal appli­ca­tion of this law, the enor­mous costs of seek­ing this pun­ish­ment and the uncer­tain­ty of clo­sure for vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. I hope Wash­ing­ton joins the grow­ing num­ber of states that are choos­ing to end the death penalty.”

“Today the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate took a his­toric, bipar­ti­san vote, pass­ing Attor­ney Gen­er­al-request leg­is­la­tion to elim­i­nate the death penal­ty and replace it with life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of parole,” said Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son. “Thank you to leg­isla­tive lead­ers and advo­cates who worked so hard to make this his­toric vote hap­pen. There’s more work to do — Speak­er Chopp and the state House now have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to abol­ish our bro­ken death penalty.”

“In the past year, promi­nent Repub­li­can offi­cials came for­ward to sup­port abol­ish­ing the death penal­ty — for­mer Attor­ney Gen­er­al Rob McKen­na and King Coun­ty Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney Dan Sat­ter­berg,” Fer­gu­son added. “I want to thank them for con­tribut­ing their per­spec­tive to this debate.”

“For me, there are many com­pelling rea­son why Wash­ing­ton should join the nine­teen oth­er states that have elim­i­nat­ed the death penal­ty,” said Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen (D‑43rd Dis­trict), the chair of the Sen­ate Law & Jus­tice Committee.

Ped­er­sen, who has cham­pi­oned abo­li­tion on both sides of the dome, went on to explain that the death penal­ty is inde­fen­si­ble. “It is unfair­ly admin­is­tered; expen­sive; and unavail­able in wide swaths of our state,” he said. “Those con­vict­ed of aggra­vat­ed first-degree mur­der should die in prison with no hope of parole. The tax­pay­ers do not need to spend mil­lions of dol­lars to has­ten that death.”

“This is a dif­fi­cult and seri­ous pub­lic issue, and a per­son­al deci­sion for each leg­is­la­tor,” said Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, D‑36th District.

“And in this dis­cus­sion, we offer no per­son­al judg­ments, no moral crit­i­cism and no right­eous­ness against those with whom we disagree.”

“But my per­son­al reli­gious con­vic­tion leaves me unable to sup­port a pol­i­cy that is clear­ly applied inequitably across our nation and that I believe does not rep­re­sent our best val­ues of grace. For nine years as a leg­is­la­tor I have led efforts to elim­i­nate the death penal­ty in favor of life in prison.”

“Today’s vote rep­re­sents an evo­lu­tion in think­ing about the death penal­ty and I am grate­ful that we are mak­ing mean­ing­ful progress toward that goal.”

The roll call on SB 6052 was as follows:

Roll Call
SB 6052
Death penal­ty elimination
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 26; Nays: 22; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Chase, Cleve­land, Darneille, Dhin­gra, Fain, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, McCoy, Milos­cia, Mul­let, Nel­son, Palum­bo, Ped­er­sen, Ranker, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Walsh, War­nick, Wellman

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Angel, Bai­ley, Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Con­way, Erick­sen, For­tu­na­to, Hobbs, Hon­ey­ford, King, O‘Ban, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Takko, Van De Wege, Wag­oner, Wil­son, Zeiger

Excused: Sen­a­tor Baumgartner

The team at NPI is over­joyed by the pas­sage of Sen­ate Bill 6052.

With today’s vote, our Sen­ate has loud­ly declared that human rights mat­ter in Wash­ing­ton State. We thank each and every sen­a­tor who vot­ed for abo­li­tion. We are par­tic­u­lar­ly grate­ful to Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Brad Hawkins, Joe Fain, Mark Milos­cia, Mau­reen Walsh, and Judy War­nick for their aye votes.

With­out them, this bill would not have passed.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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