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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

Of serial killers and a death sentence…

Washington's highest court yesterday upheld Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr.'s death sentence for killing two women in Pierce County, as I wrote yesterday.

Writing for the 8-1 majority, Justice Susan Owens addressed one of Yates' key arguments: that it's unfair for him to get death in Pierce County for two killings when a plea deal with Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker got him life-without-parole for 13 killings. Yates attorneys also repeatedly pointed to the state's most prolific serial killer ever, Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who managed to avoid the death sentence in King County despite killing at least 48 people.

Referring to the latter -- and quoting a similar recent ruling -- Justice Owens wrote

"Ridgway's abhorrent killings, standing alone, do not render the death penalty unconstitutional or disproportionate. Our law is not so fragile."

Here's an interesting exchange from last November on this very point. The speakers are Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Yates attorney Thomas Kummerow. (NOTE: turn computer volume down before clicking on link. The audio level's a little high.) (Audio is copyright TVW, used with permission.)

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.