Lawmakers consider bill to end executions in state


OLYMPIA, Wash. - Lawmakers heard testimony from more than 100 people who support a bill that would abolish the death penalty in Washington.

At the public hearing in Olympia Wednesday, most of the people who attended support the bill that would replace execution with life in prison without possibility of parole.

 But one state representative said bill sponsors had time to plan and organize while those who support the death penalty did not.

Included in Wednesday’s testimony was a statement from former Gov. Dan Evans, who is against the death penalty.

 Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, a murder victim's sister and an expert on the costs of the death penalty all spoke in favor of the bill.

The last execution in the state of Washington was in September 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown was put to death by lethal injection for the murder of Holly Washa 19 years before.


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 After so many years, Washa's family said the execution brought a kind of closure.

 “It just means that in the future when we get together, and we want to talk about Holly, we can focus on the things she did in her life that made us laugh,” the victim’s sister, Becky Washa.

 But some murder victims' relatives feel differently.

Though her son was murdered when he was 21, his mother, Shirley Mathis, told state representatives she was against the death penalty.

“I was horrified, but I told my children that I would forgive the killer, as I did not want my soul murdered by hatred and anger toward that person,” said Mathis.

  Saying it will reduce criminal justice expenses, House Bill 1504 strikes all of the situations in which the law allows execution.

 Instead, it says, "Any person convicted of the crime of aggravated first-degree murder shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.”

Supporters of the bill said execution is immoral, archaic and unfair, pointing to statistics that show jurors are more likely to sentence a black defendant to death over a white defendant.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Maureen Walsh, represents Walla Walla, which is home to the state prison that carries out executions.

“To me it’s almost too easy to just kill them.  I’d rather they sit in jail for the rest of their lives and think about what they’ve done.  Live in that hell for the rest of their lives,” said Walsh.

 Experts said life in prison without parole would actually be cheaper for the state.  Capital punishment trials and appeals can cost millions.

 Eighth District Rep. Brad Klippert strongly supports the death penalty and said that there are some things that are worth the cost.

“A jury of their peers has to find that the crime that they committed is so heinous, so brutal and so evil, that leniency should not be considered in their case,” said Klippert.

 There are five countries that lead the world in death penalty executions.

 The U.S. is one of them, along with China, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

 Western Europe has done away with capital punishments entirely, as have 17 states in the U.S.