Lawmakers heard arguments at the state capitol Monday for a bill that, if passed, will ban the death penalty in Washington state. The bill replaces the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.
Given the shift in power in Olympia some political minds believe this year the bill has a good shot of getting traction.
Supporters of the death penalty believe the punishment is justified and in some cases it can be used as leverage to get more information from suspects if death penalty is on the table.
But many people believe the state should move forward with a ban. One person who testified Monday in support of the ban was King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who said the Washington state law is expensive and it’s not working.
“There are people who will make moral objections and religious objections to the death penalty. Mine is really based on having had to implement it for the last 28 years. I believe it is unworkable, I believe it is unnecessary and it doesn’t serve the interest of victims,” Satterberg said ahead of the hearing. “These cases have taken 20 years or more, they’ve cost many millions of dollars and the truth is that I think it’s unworkable because there are very few counties in Washington state that can even think about paying for a death penalty trial. There are 39 counties and only about three of them could actually do this.”
“When you scrape away the politics and the emotion of this subject and really just look at it as a public program that we spend tens of millions of dollars on, in the last 38 years we’ve executed two people against their will,” Satterberg added. “By any measure, this is a failed program.”
“It is what it is, you either support a system that’s going to take 20 to 30 years to get to a conclusion and cost tens of millions of dollars. Or you say maybe we can achieve finality for the victims and the community much faster through a life without the possibility of release sentence so I favor that.”
"My mother was killed in 1996," Jessie Trapp told lawmakers during the hearing.
Her mother, Jane Hungerford-Trapp, was murdered by Cecil Davis in Pierce County.
"He beat her on the steps until she was unrecognizable," Trapp said.
Davis got a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Hungerford-Trapp's murder but was sentenced to death row for another killing.
Trapp told Senators Davis should not get to have penpals, watch television or have visitors for the rest of his life.
"My family doesn't get that," said Trapp.
Trapp said she has been looking forward to watching Davis' execution.
"It does sound morbid," said Trapp, "But that's my closure. I need to be there for my mother."
Kitsap County Sheriff Gary Sanders and Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe testified against the bill.
Roe said jurors should maintain the ability to sentence someone to death.
He brought up the 2011 murder of state corrections officer Jayme Biendl, killed by someone serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
"If you are already serving life in prison," said Roe, "And you kill another inmate or a corrections officer, you aren't going to face any more punishment."