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Replacing the Death Penalty

Position: support

Sponsors: Sen. Ed Murray, Rep. Brendan Williams

The bill would replace the death penalty in Washington with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of civil liberties. Application of the death penalty in our state has proven costly and unfair, and has not resulted in a reduction in crime. The cost to local government, in particular, is staggering—at least three-quarters of a million dollars per case—resulting in different penalties for the same crime, depending on the county in which the crime was committed.

The death penalty poses an unacceptable risk of executing the innocent. Since its reinstatement in 1977, at least 124 men and women have been released from death row nationally—some only minutes away from execution. The death penalty is also racially biased. In Washington, prosecutors have sought death sentences almost three times as often if one or more of the victims was white.

Life without parole is a sensible alternative to the death penalty. Unlike the death penalty, a sentence of life without parole allows mistakes to be corrected or new evidence to come to light. And life without parole is far less expensive. Fourteen states have repealed the death penalty; Washington should follow their lead.