Washington House Committee Considers Eliminating Death Penalty

Mar 5, 2013

  A House committee in Olympia will hear public testimony Wednesday for a bill that would abolish capital punishment in Washington. House Bill 1504 would eliminate the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

The last execution in Washington state was nearly three years ago when Cal Brown died by lethal injection for the murder of Holly Washa.

Proponents of capital punishment argue that some crimes deserve death, and that execution removes the worst criminals from society. But retired Washington Director of Prisons Dick Morgan disagrees.

Morgan calls capital punishment a huge waste of money.

He believes there's a misconception by the public that people on death row are somehow more desperate or dangerous than others in prison. He said the only difference between death row inmates and most other murderers is their sentence.

View from the lethal injection gurney at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
View from the lethal injection gurney at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Credit Washington Department of Corrections

"It might surprise folks that the Department of Corrections currently has over 2,000 murderers doing time in several different prisons very well with no problems at all," Morgan said.

During his 35 years in corrections Morgan participated in three executions at the Penitentiary. He said he carried out the job because of his belief in the rule of law. He now sits on the board of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

A 2006 report by the Washington State Bar Association found that a death penalty can add nearly half a million dollars in legal costs to a case.

There are currently eight people on death row in Washington.

The governor of Oregon recently imposed a moratorium on the death penalty just weeks before a scheduled execution.