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Victory! House Judiciary Committee advances bill to abolish the death penalty (SB 6052)

Legislation to abolish the death penalty moved a step closer to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk today when the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance Senate Bill 6052, prime sponsored by Republican Senator Maureen Walsh.

[Watch the executive session on TVW.]

Having been reported out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation, SB 6052 now heads to House Rules, where a determination will be made regarding whether to put it on the floor calendar for consideration by the full state House of Representatives. The Senate voted last week to pass the bill by a vote of twenty-six to twenty-two, with five Republicans voting aye and four Democrats voting nay.

The vote in favor of giving the bill a “do pass” recommendation was as follows:


  • Representative Laurie Jinkins (Committee Chair)
  • Representative Tina Orwall
  • Representative Roger Goodman
  • Representative Steve Kirby
  • Representative Chris Kilduff
  • Representative Javier Valdez
  • Representative Drew Hansen


  • Representative Brad Klippert
  • Representative Jay Rodne
  • Representative Paul Graves
  • Representative Larry Haler
  • Representative Dick Muri
  • Representative Matt Shea

The bill left committee without being amended, although Representative Steve Kirby expressed a desire to attach a referendum clause to the bill (which would subject the legislation to a public vote this November) on the floor.

NPI strongly opposes placing a referendum clause on Senate Bill 6052. We elect our legislators to make informed, difficult decisions on our behalf, and this bill exemplifies the kind of legislation that is well suited for the legislative process as opposed to the initiative or referendum process.

Our Governor, our Attorney General, immediate past Attorney General, and lawmakers and prosecutors from both parties all agree the time has come to abolish the death penalty in Washington State.

The Senate has voted; now the House should take up this bill and hold a vote.

NPI urges members of the House Republican caucus to follow Representative Terry Nealey’s lead and consider voting in favor of passing Senate Bill 6052.

Nealey joined with Attorneys General Ferguson and McKenna to kick off Ferguson’s push for abolition last year, noting in a statement:

As a former prosecuting attorney for Columbia County, my heart remains with the families of the victims who suffered horrific acts that would justify the death penalty. Their feelings should never be minimalized. That is why it has taken so long for my thoughts to evolve against the death penalty in Washington state. However, the steps, the immense and extended time, and the incredible expense and resources it takes to impose and uphold this most severe form of punishment have made the death penalty nearly impossible to carry out. In recent years, even in the most heinous crimes, jurors have failed to impose the death penalty. In the meantime, families suffer for years with the angst of having to go through trials, court proceedings, appeals and more, not knowing if the death penalty will ever take place.

There are many good arguments against abolishing the death penalty. Perhaps the best argument of all is that human beings are fallible, which means there is always a possibility that an innocent person could be put to death for a crime they did not commit. This has unfortunately happened many times.

A few people wrongly given death sentences have been exonerated thanks to the incredible work of The Innocence Network, which has a local affiliate at the UW. But others have been killed despite maintaining their innocence.

By ending the death penalty, we can ensure that we as a society never again take the life of a person convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the American way. Life is one of our foremost values. Every person deserves to live. By getting rid of the death penalty, we reaffirm our commitment to the value of life and join the rest of the developed world in declaring that human rights are sacred to us as Americans.

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