It is time to abolish the death penalty in Washington state. A proposal in the Legislature sponsored by state Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, is worthy of support.
Walsh offers strong arguments for ending capital punishment, starting with concern that families must endure the long and emotional appeals process in murder cases. Media coverage opens old wounds. And when the convicted killer is executed, families don’t feel vindicated, she said.
“The death penalty is not accomplishing a wonderful relief for these families,” Walsh said.
Beyond that, the appeals process is very expensive. A Seattle University study in 2015 found the appeals process in death penalty cases cost $1 million more than keeping the killer in prison for life.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has put a moratorium on executions while he is in office. The public reaction, which has been essentially very little, indicates the public either agrees or does not care.
The last execution in Washington was in 2010 at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla. To that point the Union-Bulletin accepted the death penalty as an option to punish those convicted of the most heinous acts imaginable.
The state has used capital punishment sparingly – and appropriately – since the death penalty was reinstated in 1981 and used for the first time in 30 years in 1993. Five inmates have been executed – two by hanging and three by lethal injection – since capital punishment was reinstated.
A total of 110 executions have been carried out in the state (and before that territories) since 1849.
In 2009, the Union-Bulletin did an in-depth look at the death penalty. It was clear the costs of implementing it were enormous – about $20 million from 1981 through 2009 – with the appeals processing accounting for most of the spending.
Sentencing some to death is far more expensive than life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Some of the arguments for retaining the death penalty are based on the emotion of seeing a brutal killer pay the ultimate price, rather than as a deterrent to crime or even a tool for justice.
A better approach, given the excessive expense and lack of relief for families, is to bring closure to these cases more quickly.
A sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole serves taxpayers as well as justice.