Thursday, February 13, 2014

At what point does the death penalty become "unusual?"

When the majority of death penalty sentences lead to reversal, the entire system itself must be called into question. - Gov. Jay Inslee
And so the death penalty continues on its slow boat to oblivion...

The State of Washington is the latest state to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that he is putting an end to state-sponsored murder of inmates due to his deep concerns about the legality of the death penalty.

His order does not, however, commute the sentences of anyone still on death row in Washington. It only prevents a death sentence from being imposed from this date forward. Any inmate whose death sentence case finds its way to the governor's desk will receive a reprieve.
"Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility. 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." - Gov. Jay Inslee
Such a move, while hailed by death penalty opponents, is like trying to butter both sides of your toast. If the death penalty is unequally applied then it is unequally applied to those sitting on death row. If the governor's problem is that there is too much imperfection in our justice system to continue to kill inmates then that imperfection existed when the current denizens of death row were sentenced to die.

I suppose he felt he had to do it this way so he wouldn't be seen as being soft on crime. He made a point of telling the world how heinous the crimes of the current death row inmates were and that he was absolutely convinced of their guilt. Whatever.

Gov. Inslee's actions are a step in the right direction, but they don't go nearly far enough. In addition to the moratorium on new death sentences, the governor should have commuted the sentences of those on death row to life in prison.

Furthermore, the actions of Gov. Inslee are not binding on the next person to sit behind his desk. Unless he actually commutes a death sentence into a life sentence, the next governor could still authorize the execution.

Thus far 18 states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty while seven states, including Washington and Oregon, have imposed moratoriums.

See also:

"Facts about the death penalty," Death Penalty Information Center


Unknown said...

The most immediate beneficiary of this move sexually assaulted a 12 year old girl and then bashed her head in with a rock. That is what you are casually dismissing with a 'whatever'.

Unknown said...

How about Conner Michael Schierman? He killed four people with a knife. Two of the victims were 5 and 3 years old. It is not clear whether their mother got to watch her children being murdered or if the children saw their mother being murdered first.

But you know, whatever.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

And in either case did the murder of the person responsible bring any of the victims back to life or heal the wound left by their deaths?

The death penalty serves no purpose other than revenge which is not a legitimate goal of our criminal justice system.

Unknown said...

Here's some free advice, just in case you are actually interested in changing people's minds:

Normal, decent people don't look at the fate of Schierman's victims and just say 'whatever'.

They were little kids.

and you say 'whatever'.

You are going to need to make a better case than that if you want to convince anyone that Schierman doesn't have it coming.