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Most Governor Candidates Support Death Penalty But Not All Agree When And On Whom ‘Ultimate Penalty’ Should Be Used

All but one of the candidates who want to succeed lame-duck Gov. Mike Lowry support the death penalty, but that doesn’t mean they’re of one mind.

Republicans Nona Brazier, Ellen Craswell and Bob Tharp support the death penalty for crimes other than murder, such as rape, kidnapping or some drug cases. And Brazier proposes a new capital crime: “rape of a virgin.”

All of the Republican candidates except King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng believe the death penalty should apply to 16- and 17-year-old murderers.

None of the Democrats supports executing minors.

The survey of seven Republican and four Democratic candidates by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer found just one holdout against capital punishment, Democratic state Sen. Nita Rinehart of Seattle. But she said she would enforce the law if elected governor.

“I do not support the death penalty, but it is the law,” Rinehart said. “As governor, I will uphold the law. I would consider petitions for clemency based on their merit and would not use them as a means to dodge the law.”

State law allows the death penalty only for aggravated first-degree murder and treason. The governor can commute a death sentence.

Republican Pam Roach supports the death penalty in any first-degree murder case, not just those with aggravating circumstances.

Republican Dale Foreman of Wenatchee, state House majority leader, would limit its use to aggravated murder, but is open to expanding the criteria for determining which slayings fall into that category when a “new outrageous example” occurs.

Republicans Maleng and Tacoma attorney Jim Waldo, and all of the Democratic candidates, oppose expanding the list of crimes punishable by death.

Maleng, whose office has sought the death penalty in 15 cases since 1981 and won three death sentences, said the existing law “reaches the right categories of outrageous crimes that deserve the ultimate penalty.”

“Our death penalty statute is carefully drafted to reach the most aggravated and heinous cases. Overreaching beyond aggravated murder invites constitutional challenges to the entire law,” he said.

Other Republicans disagree.

Craswell, a former state senator from Poulsbo, said she believes the death penalty should apply to premeditated murder, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

Tharp, a retired airline pilot from Vancouver, wants the death penalty for high-level drug dealers.

As for allowing the execution of 16- and 17-year-olds:

“A civilized society doesn’t execute its children,” said former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democratic candidate from Bainbridge Island.

And Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, also a Democratic candidate, said he thinks “we’d be better off to look at rehabilitation and other kinds of things than the death penalty” for juvenile murderers.

Waldo said juries should consider a murderer’s age, and Foreman said minors should be executed only under extraordinary circumstances.

Brazier, a Maple Valley businesswoman and the former chairwoman of the King County GOP, argued that “the death penalty is an affirmation by society of the sanctity of life. … I don’t think that age should exempt someone from that penalty.”

“If you’re going to do an adult crime, you should get an adult penalty,” said Tharp.

Two convicted killers - Charles Campbell and Westley Allan Dodd - have been hanged in Washington since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Washington’s death row currently contains 12 men.

Incumbent Lowry opposes the death penalty, but did not interfere with Campbell’s execution in 1994, the only one during his tenure.

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