Inslee announces moratorium on state’s death penalty

Washington’s death row inmates won’t be executed any time soon, with Gov. Jay Inslee announcing this morning that he’ll impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

Inslee said at a press conference Tuesday that he’s been studying the issue during his nearly 14 months in office, and he’s come to the conclusion that death penalty cases are too costly for taxpayers, that the punishment doesn’t deter crime and that often the most heinous criminals aren’t executed.

“In death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice under the law is being served,” Inslee said. “The death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget involved where the crime occurred.”

Under the moratorium, Inslee wouldn’t commute any death sentences or pardon any criminals. Instead, if a death warrant reaches his desk, Inslee said he’ll sign a repeal that will last the length of his term as governor. But when he leaves office, new execution warrants could be issued and the death row inmates could be put to death.

He said prosecutors won’t be prevented from seeking the death penalty while the moratorium is in place.

The governor said his decision isn’t a request for legislation from the state House and Senate — it’s merely an executive decision that’s independent of the legislative branch. However, he said that if bills consistent with the moratorium cross his desk in coming years, he’ll happily sign them.

Washington currently has nine inmates, all men, on death row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The moratorium isn’t a commentary on these inmates’ guilt, Inslee added.

Inslee also said he’s not aware of any executions of innocent people in Washington, but he’s uncomfortable with the potential for error in the justice system when a human life is on the line.

“We have a human system, and human systems are fallible,” Inslee said.


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