A House Committee in Olympia took no action Wednesday on House Bill 1504 which would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without parole.
Former Washington Governor Dan Evans endorsed the legislation but could not make the hearing. Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla read Evans' statement to the committee that said, "I vowed not to allow any executions during my term as governor. The chance for error was too great and the cost too high. If the death penalty is no deterrent, is enormously costly and riddled with errors, all that is left is revenge. Is that an appropriate goal for a civilized nation? I think not.”
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick has a background in law enforcement and questioned Walsh about the statement she read. “Do you know if Governor Evans ever visited a heinous crime scene where someone has been brutally and evilly and with all malice murdered, dismembered or executed?" Klippert asked. "Did he ever witness one of those scenes and make this consideration?”
Walsh told Klippert she didn't know that answer to that question.
Seattle Representative Reuven Carlyle is the prime sponsor of the bill. He urged Judiciary Committee members to keep an open mind.
The state has executed 78 men since 1904. Legislation that would abolish the death penalty has been introduced in previous legislative sessions with little success.
According to the State Attorney General’s office Jonathan Gentry is the death row inmate who is closest to execution. Gentry is awaiting a ruling from the State Supreme Court but could be scheduled for execution in the summer or the fall.
Gentry was convicted of murdering 12-year old Cassie Holden in 1988.