Moratorium on executions in Washington

The 2009 memorial for East Precinct officer Timothy Brenton (Image: CHS)

The 2009 memorial procession for East Precinct officer Timothy Brenton (Image: CHS)

Washington’s governor has halted the use of the death penalty in the state:

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced that he is imposing a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty in Washington state.

Inslee’s decision comes after months of careful review of the status of capital punishment in Washington state including research on current cases, discussions with prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and family members of homicide victims, and a tour of death row and the execution chambers at Walla Walla State Penitentiary.

Inslee said it is clear to him that use of capital punishment is inconsistent and unequal, and it’s time to have a conversation about ensuring equal justice under the law.

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

In addition the unequal application of the penalty, the governor cited the expense of pursuing the cases and the lack of evidence that execution is a crime deterrent as additional drivers for his decision. The NAACP called the move “a victory for the African American community.”

Inslee’s moratorium ensures none of the inmates currently on Washington’s death row will be executed while the governor remains in office. Inslee did not commute the sentences, however, leaving the door open for future governors to reinstate the penalty. 18 states have moved to outlaw executions. Six have done so in the last six years.

It’s not clear yet how the moratorium will impact the prosecution of the most recent capital case involving the Capitol Hill area. Christopher Monfort pleaded not guilty to the 2009 slaying of East Precinct cop Timothy Brenton. Prosecutors have said they planned to seek the death penalty in the case. His trial is currently slated to begin in September.

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7 thoughts on “Moratorium on executions in Washington

  1. It seems to me that Inslee is just “kicking the can down the road.” He gets to take the moral high ground, but future Governors will have to make their own decision. I smell political motivation here.

    In my opinion, there is a place for the death penalty in extreme cases. It is inconceiveable that Christopher Monfort would not get this sentence if he is found guilty (which is almost a certainty).

  2. Ridiculous, entirely politically-motivated decision. This quote is golden:

    “The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”

    Yes. That could be said for ANY crime though. Do we now announce that, since crime enforcement funding is not exactly equal everywhere, that we will no longer convict anyone because we can’t be sure everyone is being treated exactly equally?

    The pursuit of perfection is the enemy of the good. There can be no such thing as perfection when it comes to criminal justice. It is an impossible standard to uphold or expect.

    I believe we do the best we can to ensure the rights of the accused are respected. Mistakes will be made and sometimes people will not do their jobs correctly, but that doesn’t mean we let those among us who kill their own species to live long lives.

  3. Pingback: Courts: Yancy Noll and First Hill murder trials, Monfort death penalty jury selection | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle