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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Washington state lawmakers to again consider eliminating capital punishment

Washington state's death chamber
A bill to be introduced this session would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state and require people convicted of first-degree murder to serve life sentences without the possibility of parole.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested Senate Bill 6052 after other legislation failed to pass through a committee hearing last year.

“I’m reasonably optimistic that this could be the year,” Ferguson said, mentioning the bill’s bipartisan sponsorship. “The votes are there.”

Despite other legislative priorities, Ferguson said this year might be different with a democratic majority in the senate.

“The fact is that taxpayers foot the multi-million dollar appeals process for the accused, and we spend $50,000 a year for incarceration,” Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, the bill’s prime sponsor, wrote in an email. “A life sentence with no chance of early release saves money and issues the ultimate punishment by denying the convicted their freedom and liberties for life just as they did their victim.”

Allowing an individual’s right to appeal, Walsh also noted that there are cases in which a person can be exonerated if new evidence arises.

Still, the appeals process and litigation for these cases can cost the state millions of dollars, which, Walsh said, outweighs the cost of keeping someone in prison for life in many cases.

In a 2015 study from Seattle University’s School of Law examining 147 aggravated first-degree murder cases since 1997, authors estimated the average cost of capital punishment cases to be more than $3 million compared to cases that did not seek the capital punishment to be about $2 million.

The largest differential factors being trial level prosecution costs ,which are 2.3 times more expensive in capital punishment cases than cases that do not seek the death penalty. Court and police costs are 3.9 times more costly, and appeals are 5.7 times more costly in the same cases.

Walsh said the economic argument is a compelling one but says stories of the lives affected by the death penalty are also worth discussing.

There are eight incarcerated individuals on death row, according to Washington Department of Corrections. The last person to be executed in the state was Cal Coburn Brown in 2010.

In February 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a moratorium on executions in Washington state. The moratorium allows Inslee to grant reprieves so no prisoners are executed but does not pardon them. According to a press release last year, capital punishment is “unequally applied” and “sometimes dependent on the size of the county’s budget.”

Source: Auburn Reporter, Taylor McAvoy, January 7, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?