Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a moratorium Tuesday on the use of the death penalty in Washington state during his term.
“There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment,” Inslee said. “There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”
Inslee cited the costs associated with prosecuting capital punishment as one of the key factors in his decision. He said that the research shows that trial and appellate costs far outnumber the price of keeping a person in jail for life – even if the person lived to be 100 years old.
He also said that there was no credible evidence that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to murder.
The moratorium only applies to the length of Inslee’s term.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a statement that Washington law remains unchanged and the legal implications of Inslee's policy appear to be "limited."
"In the short term, it is likely to cause more delay, expense and uncertainty," Satterberg said. 'A moratorium alone will not resolve the issues raised by the Governor. Let’s have an informed public debate and let the citizens of Washington decide if we should keep capital punishment in our state."
Inslee stated during a question and answer session that he was not requesting legislative action to accompany his decision, but said that he would sign legislation if it came across his desk during his term.
There are currently nine men on death row in Washington, including two from King County. Inslee said that his decision does not commute the sentences of these men.
“Let me say clearly that this policy decision is not about the nine men on death row in Walla Walla,” the governor said. “I don’t question their guilt or the gravity of their crimes. They get no mercy from me. This action does not commute their sentences or issue any pardons to any offender. But I do not believe their horrific offenses override the problems that exist in our capital punishment system.”
One of such problem Inslee said was how many capital cases are eventually overturned. Since 1981, 32 people have been sentenced to the death penalty. Of those, 19 were overturned due to errors, including one person who was eventually set free.