A switch from hanging to lethal injection as Washington’s primary means of execution would halt appeals that have delayed death sentences, Attorney General Christine Gregoire said Tuesday.
“The change would close a significant loophole and result in only a finite number of appeals rather than infinite appeals that result under current law,” Gregoire told the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
Under current law, condemned inmates can choose hanging or lethal injection. If they decline to choose, they are hanged. Under Gregoire’s proposal, if they do not choose, they would face lethal injection.
The measure, SB5500, has strong support in the Senate from leaders of both majority Democrats and minority Republicans.
It’s a different story in the Republican-controlled House.
“I will not support a change,” said Rep. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, chairman of the House Law and Justice Committee.
“I’m afraid it would just give people another avenue of appeal and would further delay carrying out of the death penalty,” Padden said.
Gregoire disagreed, saying hanging is more susceptible to appeal than lethal injection. She said injection has been upheld in 19 states.
She pointed to the Mitchell Rupe case as evidence of the susceptibility of hanging to appeal. Hanging has been ruled unconstitutional in Rupe’s case because he weighs more than 400 pounds and hanging might decapitate him.
Rupe has been on Death Row since 1982 for the shooting deaths of Twila Capron and Candace Hemmig during a bank robbery in Olympia.
Gregoire conceded that appeals would be filed in the event of a change, but said that after one case is decided in the state’s favor, it would mean fewer delays.