Washington Senate passes bill to abolish death penalty

The Washington Senate has approved a measure to abolish the state’s death penalty, sending the bill to the House.

The legislation passed out of the Democratic-led chamber on a bipartisan 26-22 vote, with a handful of Democrats crossing over to vote no, and five Republicans voting yes, including the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla.

The measure would remove capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder and mandate instead a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Previous efforts to ban the death penalty have failed to gain traction in recent years, in spite of a moratorium put in place by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2014.

A 2015 study from Seattle University found that death penalty cases in the state cost $1 million more than similar cases where capital punishment is not sought.

The death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and several states are considering measures this year.  An additional four states – Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Pennsylvania – currently have moratoriums.

There have been 78 inmates, all men, put to death in Washington since 1904. The most recent execution in the state came in 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman.  (AP)

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