Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that he will suspend the use of the death penalty in his state, saying that "in death penalty cases, I'm not convinced equal justice is being served." Inslee said he hopes the decision will spur officials to "join a growing national conversation about capital punishment." Eighteen states, excluding Washington, already ban capital punishment outright.
Inslee added that he had been mulling blocking the death penalty for months, saying:
There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today. There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.
In a statement posted to his website, Inslee explains that "the use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred, and continues:
I have previously supported capital punishment. And I don’t question the hard work and judgment of the county prosecutors who bring these cases or the judges who rule on them. But my review of the law in Washington State and my responsibilities as Governor have led me to reevaluate that position. I recognize that many people will disagree with this decision. I respect everyone's beliefs on this and have no right to question or judge them. With my action today I expect Washington State will join a growing national conversation about capital punishment. I welcome that and I’m confident that our citizens will engage in this very important debate.
Inslee offers five concrete reasons for the decision, namely that those sentenced to death are usually not executed; that executions are expensive; that they are not often swift or painless; that there is no evidence that the death penalty deters murder; and that sometimes criminals who are sentenced to death aren't actually the "most heinous offenders."
From now on, those sentenced to death in Washington will be given a reprieve, which is not equal to a pardon. Those prisoners will continue serving out their time in jail. Nine men are currently on death row in Washington.