Washington Governor Puts the Brakes on Death Penalty

Andrew Mortazavi

Washington has joined a growing number of other states that are moving away from the death penalty. Though capital punishment is still legal in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that the state would not go forward with any executions while he remains in office. According to the New York Times: The death penalty is legal in a majority of states, although 18 states have outlawed it, including six that have done so in the last six years. For governors who oppose the death penalty, refusing to order executions may be an easier way to make a point than to try to reverse a law. "There are too many flaws in the system," Mr. Inslee said on Tuesday. He noted that since the state’s current capital punishment laws were enacted in 1981, more than half of the 32 death sentences imposed in Washington had been overturned. "And when the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system." He added, "With my action today, I expect Washington state will join a growing national conversation about capital punishment." Thanks to Inslee, that conversation is indeed buzzing in Washington. Republican lawmakers have criticized the governor for encroaching on what they say should be left up to state legislatures. And anti-death penalty advocates may feel that Inslee's action wasn't strong enough: While the governor promised that all inmates facing execution will receive his  reprieve (though they will not, of course, go free), the death penalty remains on the books in Washington. A future governor is free to resume allowing executions at will. 

Andrew Mortazavi is a Spring 2014 editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewmortazavi.
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