Moral Low Ground


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Suspends Death Penalty

Washington’s Democratic governor announced Tuesday he was suspending capital punishment in the state, citing “too many flaws” in an “unequal” system.

Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference announcing he will halt all executions for as long as he remains in office. The nine men on death row will receive stays of execution until further notice.

Gov. Inslee said that capital punishment is being unfairly applied.

“There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today,” Inslee told reporters. “There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

“Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” the governor added in a statement first obtained by the Associated Press. “And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served. The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”

Inslee also acknowledged that executing prisoners “does not deter crime, costs citizens millions more than life in prison without parole,” is “uncertain in its application,” and “exposes families to multiple decades of uncertainty.”

The former US congressman said he hopes his moratorium will enable officials to “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.”

Although around 60 percent of Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, support for capital punishment is at a 40-year low, according to a recent Gallup poll. Gov. John Kitzhaber in neighboring Oregon, also a Democrat, declared a moratorium on executions for the rest of his term in November 2011. Last May, Maryland became the 18th state to abolish capital punishment.

Death penalty abolitionists hailed the governor’s decision.

“The moment Governor Inslee decided to suspend the death penalty is the moment he decided to stand on the right side of history,” Amnesty International USA executive director Steven W. Hawkins said in a statement. “The world is moving away from this cruel and barbaric practice, and today, the state of Washington just got a bit closer to doing the same.”

Supporters of capital punishment expressed their anger at the change.

“[Inslee] is absolutely wrong,” Leola Peden, whose daughter was raped and murdered in 1996 by Allen Eugene Gregory, a death row prisoner, told the AP. “I don’t feel that my family and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren should clothe and feed [Gregory] and take care of all of his health needs and dental care for the rest of his life. Where is the justice in that?”

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