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Spin Control

Posts tagged: capital punishment

Sunday Spin: Death penalty bill dies, but not quietly

OLYMPIA – Whether Washington state should execute some people for crimes like aggravated first-degree murder is a good debate to have.

Whether the governor or the Legislature has the constitutional authority to do certain things is a good debate to have.

Mix capital punishment with separation of powers and you get a not so-good-debate, but an excellent vehicle for diatribes. . .

 

Execution moratorium misuse of power, Republicans say

OLYMPIA — Legislative Republicans accused Gov. Jay Inslee of misusing his power by announcing a blanket moratorium on all executions during his term.  

“It's the Legislature that decides whether (capital punishment) is an appropriate policy,” Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-University Place, said, while a governor has the authority to stay the execution of a particular inmate on an individual basis. “He has usurped his role.”

Inslee announced Tuesday he would not allow anyone who has been sentenced to death by the courts and exhausted all appeals to be executed while he is in office, hoping that would spark a discussion on whether equal justice is being served by capital punishment in Washington. A successor could allow the executions to go forward if he or she chooses, Inslee said.

Criticism from O'Ban and other Republicans was varied, and at times seemed contradictory. At one point, O'Ban said it could take a valuable tool out of the hands of prosecutors, who have used the possibility of not seeking the death penalty as a way to force serial killers to reveal information about victims; later he said it won't save the state any money because prosecutors will still be seeking the death penalty for cases that qualify for them.

O'Ban later said that defense attorneys will bring up the moratorium in discussions and “undercut” a prosecutor. It would also lead to “open season” on prison guards for inmates serving life without parole, because they'd have nothing to lose by killing a guard.

The threat of the death penalty didn't keep Monroe inmate Byron Scherf from strangling prison guard Jayme Biendl in 2012. But Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, said he is hearing from prison staff who want to know the Legislature is doing the best they can “to make them safe.” 

The Legislature could address problems with the cost of capital punishment and the long delays from appeals without a complete suspension, O'Ban said.

A spokesman for Inslee said the governor acknowledged Tuesday that people will disagree with his decision. As to the suggestion that Inslee was usurping his power, Attorney General Rob Ferguson said Tuesday the decision was within Inslee's authority as governor, and spokesman David Postman said the public can judge who was right on that point.

To read Ferguson's press release on the legality of the moratorium, click here to go inside the blog.

Gregoire won’t stop Cal Brown execution

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said this afternoon she will not commute the sentence of Cal Brown for the torture, rape and murder of Holly Washa.

Brown, who confessed to the murder, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994, and has lost subsequent appeals to overturn the sentence. The Clemency and Pardons Board split 2-2 last year on whether to commute the sentence; Gregoire said she reviewed the request and the record of the case and “found no basis to reverse his conviction or change the death sentence imposed by the jury.”

He is scheduled to be executed Thursday night.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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