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Emotional testimony over bill to ban death penalty in Washington state

Lawmakers heard testimony on a bill to abolish the death penalty in Washington state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Politics got personal at the Washington state Capitol Monday. An effort to abolish the death penalty brought testimony from citizens whose loved ones were murdered.

Lawmakers heard pro and con testimony on a bill to eliminate the death penalty as a form of punishment in the state.

Last month, the Senate advanced the bill and on Monday, the House brought it up for debate in committee.

“Catholics believe that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death,” said Daniel Mueggenborg, Auxillary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Teresa Mathis, whose brother was murdered in 1983, told legislators she did not want his killer to be put to death.

“I have that gut feeling in my bones, having experienced someone taking another person’s life. It’s not something I can support,” said Mathis.

But three people who lost loved ones to the Green River Killer Gary Ridgway said the death penalty turned into a valuable tool for prosecutors.

Ridgway was charged with seven murders and was going to face the death penalty if convicted.

He ended up cooperating with investigators, confessing to 48 murders and took detectives to where he left some remains.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to sentence him to life in prison without the chance for parole.

“Without this pressure, without the death penalty statute in place, we would have been left still wondering if he did it,” said Dennis Meehan, whose sister Mary was killed by Ridgway.

State Rep. Jenny Graham, whose sister Debbie Estes was killed by Ridgway, also testified against the bill.

RELATED: Washington lawmaker wants to keep death penalty after sister's murder by Green River Killer

She said Ridgway’s cooperation gave families resolution, and she said this bill, and other recent ones, focus too much on the rights of the criminals, instead of their victims, or their families. 

“When the people who commit these crimes are the people we go out of our way for? Enough is enough,” said Graham, R-Spokane.

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