- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously scrapped the death penalty, saying it was being carried out in an arbitrary and racially biased fashion and no longer served as a deterrent.

The state’s highest court commuted every death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

Washington becomes the 20th state to outlaw executions, said the American Civil Liberties Union.

The justices said capital punishment is seldom used, noting that the governor placed a moratorium on executions and that most district attorneys rarely pursue the death penalty.

Since 2000, the death penalty has been imposed in only two of Washington’s 39 counties, and there have been only five executions in the state since 1987. The most recent was in 2010 for a crime committed in 1991.

And the justices said black defendants are more than four times as likely to receive the death penalty as white defendants for the same crimes.

“Given the evidence before this court and our judicial notice of implicit and overt racial bias against black defendants in this state, we are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” the justices said in their ruling.

The ruling came in the appellate case of Allen Eugene Gregory, a black man who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1996. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 and sentenced to death.

In his argument to the court, Gregory said similar cases involving other defendants didn’t result in the death penalty, making its application arbitrary. He also asked the justices to review his original conviction.

The court on Thursday refused his second request, but agreed with his argument that the extreme punishment was arbitrarily applied.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would press the Legislature to make the sole punishment for aggravated murder life in prison without release.

Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a measure abolishing the death penalty, but the House didn’t pass it. It was the furthest any death penalty measure had gotten in the state Legislature after several years of effort.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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