Washington Death Penalty News

Started by Guest, April 08, 2006, 11:23:07 AM

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Washington Supreme Court Closely Divided on Rationality of State's Death Penalty
The Washington State Supreme Court recently came within one vote of effectively abolishing the state's death penalty when it ruled in the case of death row inmate Dayva Cross.  Cross is on death row for the murder of his wife and her two teenage daughters.  Attorneys for Cross had argued that their client should not be executed because killers who had committed worse crimes had been spared the death penalty. The 2003 case of Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, who received a life sentence in exchange for a detailed confession about killing 48 young women, was among the chief examples used by Cross' attorneys.

The court's 5-4 ruling upholding Cross' death sentence revealed a deep division about the future of the state's law. Writing for the majority, Justice Tom Chambers said the "moral question" of whether those on death row can be executed while a notorious serial killer is given life is best left to state lawmakers or the people of Washington.

A dissenting opinion authored by Justice Charles Johnson stated, "When Gary Ridgway, the worst mass murderer in this state's history, escapes the death penalty, serious flaws become apparent. The Ridgway case does not 'stand alone,' as characterized by the majority, but instead is symptomatic of a system where all mass murderers have, to date, escaped the death penalty. . . . The death penalty is like lightning, randomly striking some defendants and not others. Where the death penalty is not imposed on Gary Ridgway, Ben Ng and Kwan Fai Mak (the latter two convicted in Seattle's 1983 Wah Mee massacre), who represent the worst mass murders in Washington's history, on what basis do we determine on whom it is imposed? No rational explanation exists to explain why some individuals escape the penalty of death and others do not."

An editorial in the News Tribune echoed the dissenting justices' opinion, stating:

Since the 1960s, Washington has executed only 4 condemned murderers - and three of those sought death by refusing to appeal their sentences.

The rarity of executions speaks well of this state. But it has created a new grounds of appeal: that there is no logic or consistency in the way death penalties are handed down and carried out in Washington.
. . .
We're reluctant to argue for abolishing Washington's narrowly drawn death penalty, which reflects the will of the electorate. But Johnson's argument is hard to ignore in a state whose laws generally call for proportionate sentences for similar crimes.

With the likes of Ridgway, Ng and Mak living out their lives in prison, Dayva Cross? execution - if it ever happens - may well be the legal equivalent of a capricious bolt of lightning.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/newsanddev.php?scid=59

Donnie

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Writing for the majority, Justice Tom Chambers said the "moral question" of whether those on death row can be executed while a notorious serial killer is given life is best left to state lawmakers or the people of Washington.
There is no moral question.  Just as there is no moral question about the fact that some innocent people are murdered and others are not.  It is hard for me to believe that a judge can be this stupid.

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A dissenting opinion authored by Justice Charles Johnson stated, "When Gary Ridgway, the worst mass murderer in this state's history, escapes the death penalty, serious flaws become apparent.
Not only do no flaws become apparent, this is not an indication of any flaws at all.   This man should not be a judge because he has no ablity to think rationally

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The death penalty is like lightning, randomly striking some defendants and not others.
So what?  Is there a point here?

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Where the death penalty is not imposed on Gary Ridgway, Ben Ng and Kwan Fai Mak (the latter two convicted in Seattle's 1983 Wah Mee massacre), who represent the worst mass murders in Washington's history, on what basis do we determine on whom it is imposed?
If this were an important question (which it isn't) an even better question, that affects many more people would be: "On what basis do we determine whom we will protect from murder?"

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No rational explanation exists to explain why some individuals escape the penalty of death and others do not."
There are actually several rational explanations.  This man is just too biased to face reality.  

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An editorial in the News Tribune echoed the dissenting justices' opinion, stating:

Since the 1960s, Washington has executed only 4 condemned murderers - and three of those sought death by refusing to appeal their sentences.
The only problem with that is that it is far too few.

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The rarity of executions speaks well of this state.
A vile and false comment.

Jeff1857

#2
September 28, 2007, 01:47:42 PM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:25:16 AM by Jeff1857
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Just last year, the Washington Supreme Court  was divided 5-4 over the death penalty and speculation abounded that prosecutors wouldn't be able to use that tool much longer.

Foes contend the death penalty is "like lightning, randomly striking some defendants and not others." They noted that the Green River serial killer, Gary Ridgway, escaped the needle after killing 48 women, but that other killers drew the death penalty for killing far fewer.

Scholars and death penalty foes thought the court was edging toward abolishing capital punishment.

But on Thursday, a strong majority of the court backed away from that brink, not directly discussing the overarching constitutional debate, but defending the death penalty from attack on a number of fronts.

In a surprisingly lopsided 8-1 ruling, the state's highest court upheld the death sentence for serial killer Robert Yates Jr. The court said it refused to throw out capital punishment just because prosecutors are inconsistent in how they use it.

Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne hailed the decision and said the death penalty was designed for heinous criminals like Yates, "the worst of the worst." Horne once called the state's death penalty a farce and a charade that should be abolished if the legal system can't really deal with it. But he said Thursday that prosecutors are happy to retain it as an option.

Yates was convicted for shooting  two Tacoma prostitutes and suffocating them by tying plastic grocery bags over their heads. The smelter worker and Air National Guard helicopter pilot also received a 408-year sentence for murdering 13 women in Spokane, Walla Walla and Skagit counties. All those victims were prostitutes he killed in the same manner as the Tacoma women.

The author of last year's anti-death penalty dissent, Justice Charles Johnson, switched to the majority on this case. The majority opinion was written by another of last year's dissenters, Justice Susan Owens, and dissenter Barbara Madsen also joined the Yates majority. They essentially conceded that they'd lost the battle last year and would now stick with precedent.

Yates had asked the court to take a fresh look at how capital punishment is applied here, pointing to Ridgway and to Yates' own experience of agreeing to a plea bargain in Spokane County and getting life in prison for slaying 13 women, but death for killing two Tacoma women.

That disparity shows that Washington state allows "disproportionate, freakish, wanton and random" application of the death penalty, Yates' lawyers told the high court last fall.

Yates also contested Pierce County's decision to withdraw from what he called a deal with the Spokane prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for his guilty pleas and information about his victims.

But the high court swept away all of his points, saying prosecutors' discretion to seek the death penalty as they see fit doesn't pose a basic constitutional flaw in how the state applies capital punishment.

After Ridgway avoided lethal injection, legal scholars and lawmakers began debating whether the state could ever actually use capital punishment again.

The high court answered that question in clear terms Thursday.

Owens, in her majority opinion, quoted from last year's ruling she had resisted, saying it's on point in the Yates case: "Ridgway's abhorrent killings, standing alone, do not render the death penalty unconstitutional or disproportionate. Our law is not so fragile."

Yates' attorney, Gregory Link of the Washington Appellate Project, said he and Yates were deeply disappointed in the ruling. Link declined to criticize the court, but other attorneys said the justices have backtracked.

"The court was deeply divided on the proportionality question, 5-4, and they've stepped away from that," said Jeff Ellis, an attorney who heads the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The court stuck with last year's precedent, a case involving a triple homicide in King County, and may be waiting for a later case to revisit the entire issue, he said in an interview.

The Yates' ruling "tells us the court isn't ready to engage in a serious discussion yet," he said.

State Senate  Judiciary Chairman Adam Kline, D-Seattle, who has tried to persuade his colleagues to study how the death penalty is applied in Washington, said Thursday it could be years before the courts or lawmakers abolish it.

"I'll bet the sea change won't happen in my tenure in Olympia or even in my lifetime," said the 61-year-old attorney.

The case is State of Washington v. Robert Lee Yates Jr., No. 73155-1.


Barbara

Being a resident of the Evergreen and highly questionable state, I cannot support the thinking of our officials with regard to the DP.  We have a full house on Death Row and are far too generous with LWOP.  I maintain, that the length of time spent on DR is far too long.  Appeals and arguments should be completed in 5 years.  The taxpayers are tired of being manipulated by a tired and lethargic government.  The amount of monies being spent to house these useless lumps of flesh is abominable!  I say, get to it, lets get it over with.

Michael

Man on Death Row for Bremerton Girl's Death Appeals Execution

A lawyer for two men on Washington's Death Row is appealing their execution order, arguing that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

The Seattle Times reports Gil Levy filed an appeal this week in Thurston County Superior Court on behalf of Cal Coburn Brown and Jonathan Gentry.

The Seattle lawyer says the drugs used in lethal injections are not administered by a doctor. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman says a medical professional -- not necessarily a doctor -- can be on the team that administers the drugs.

The Washington state Penitentiary at Walla Walla is preparing to execute Brown on March 13. He tortured and killed a Burien woman in 1991. No execution date has been set for Gentry who killed a 12-year-old girl in 1981 near Bremerton.

http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/feb/11/man-death-row-bremerton-girls-death-appeals-execut/
I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.

63Wildcat


Being a resident of the Evergreen and highly questionable state, I cannot support the thinking of our officials with regard to the DP.  We have a full house on Death Row and are far too generous with LWOP.  I maintain, that the length of time spent on DR is far too long.  Appeals and arguments should be completed in 5 years.  The taxpayers are tired of being manipulated by a tired and lethargic government.  The amount of monies being spent to house these useless lumps of flesh is abominable!  I say, get to it, lets get it over with.


I agree Jingles... I'm a resident as well...
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat

AS OF TOMORROW I'M TURNING GRAVITY OFF...

vikkiw47

whoooooo jingles !!!!!!!!!!!!!   WELL SAID
Justice is not about bringing back the dead. It is not about revenge either. Justice is about enforcing consequences for one's own actions to endorse personal responsibility. We cannot expect anyone to take responsibility for their own actions if these consequences are not enforced in full.

Jeff1857

State's execution team resigns, fearing identities would be revealed


4 people who voluntarily administer lethal injections to death-row inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla quit their positions this week, apparently worried that their identities could become public as a result of an ongoing court case to decide whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

4 people who voluntarily administer lethal injections to death-row inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla quit their positions this week, apparently worried that their identities could become public as a result of an ongoing court case to decide whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

The four resigned Tuesday, which was the deadline Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham had set for the team's records -- detailing the members' credentials, qualifications and experience in administering lethal drugs -- to be submitted for his review.

The state is now without a lethal-injection team, and it's unclear what effect the resignations will have on the court proceedings.

Death-row inmate Darold Stenson, who was sentenced to die in 1994 for killing his wife and business partner, filed his lawsuit last year, claiming that lethal injection can result in excruciating pain if not administered correctly. 2 other death-row inmates, Jonathan Gentry and Cal Coburn Brown, later filed similar suits, and the 3 cases were consolidated.

"It's a surprising and disturbing development," said Scott Englehard, the attorney representing Gentry. "This issue has nothing to do with guarding their identities."

Englehard said the plaintiff's attorneys already agreed that no identifying information related to the team members would be disclosed. The records were to be reviewed in camera, a time-honored legal tradition in which only a judge sees sensitive and confidential documents and then decides what information attorneys will be privy to, he said.

His client and the other plaintiffs have a right to inquire about the team's "experience or qualifications to properly carry out a lethal-injection execution," Englehard said.

Dan Sytman, a spokesman for State Attorney General Rob McKenna, confirmed the resignations and said the four were worried about Wickham's order to have their records held under seal inside the state Attorney General's office. Typically, those records are kept in the office of the superintendent at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, he said.

"They were concerned their identities would become known as the process went along," he said. "We believe the court can confirm the constitutionality of the lethal-injection procedure without knowing the qualifications, training and experience of each of the lethal-injection team members."

Team members, who must all meet minimum qualifications, were approached and asked to serve based on their respective backgrounds, Sytman said. 3 are current Department of Corrections (DOC) employees and the fourth is a retired employee, he said.

"Walla Walla is a small town, so it's not hard to figure out (someone's identity) based on their qualifications," Sytman said. "They don't want picketers showing up on their front lawns, and they don't want offenders knowing who they are."

The team members' identities are a closely guarded secret, known only to a handful of people, said Eldon Vail, secretary of the state DOC. He said even he doesn't know who serves on the team.

"Historically and in the future, we'll do everything we can to guard their identities," Vail said. "It's not easy finding individuals" willing to serve on the lethal-injection team, and anyone who participates in an execution does so voluntarily.

There are currently no scheduled executions, "so we have some time" to figure out how to go about assembling a new team, Vail said. He's been in touch with other officials in other states, who have agreed to send a lethal-injection team to Washington if needed, but only if members' names are kept confidential.

"This is a very, very difficult duty that state law requires," Vail said. "This is tough work for lots of people, and it is not taken lightly."

(source: Seattle Times)


JeffB

He's been in touch with other officials in other states, who have agreed to send a lethal-injection team to Washington if needed, but only if members' names are kept confidential.

Yeah, I bet the boys in Texas would help them out as long as their expenses were paid..
"SO SUCK IT YOU "BLUE COOLER" DOPE!"  -  Sylar24

Harold1253

How about training volunteers, from a pool of the survivors families, and let them get their justice.  It's not hard to strick a needle into someone.

podmornica


How about training volunteers, from a pool of the survivors families, and let them get their justice.  It's not hard to strick a needle into someone.


How about Washington just bring back the drop?  I'm sure you don't need any medical qualifications to be a hangman.

Harold1253

Great point POD...and Washington State has someone willing to take the bit in his teeth and dispense JUSTICE...our very own Wildcat63!

63Wildcat


Great point POD...and Washington State has someone willing to take the bit in his teeth and dispense JUSTICE...our very own Wildcat63!


Yeah I will.. and I'll get JT to work with me. WTF was this idiot judge thinking? Sometimes I cannot fathom the sheer stupidity of those in Olympia.

JT GET YER ROPE LET'S ROLL!!!!
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat

AS OF TOMORROW I'M TURNING GRAVITY OFF...

Hutchsmash

"Team members, who must all meet minimum qualifications, were approached and asked to serve based on their respective backgrounds"

So apparently these four people met these published qualifications, so why aren't the qualifications standards enough for the judge to decide the issue? 
"How come life in prison doesn't mean life? Until it does, we're not ready to do away with the death penalty. Stop thinking in terms of "punishment" for a minute and think in terms of safeguarding innocent people from incorrigible murderers."

JESSE VENTURA, I Ain't Got Time to Bleed

JT

Yeah I will.. and I'll get JT to work with me. WTF was this idiot judge thinking? Sometimes I cannot fathom the sheer stupidity of those in Olympia.

JT GET YER ROPE LET'S ROLL!!!!


I'm ready when you are, Bruce... This could be our big break (no pun)!  ;D
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

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