Breaking News
More () »

Washington state Senate votes to repeal death penalty

The vote was close but the vote was bipartisan.

The Washington State Senate reportedly voted to repeal the death penalty.

The vote was 26-22 with a couple of Democrats voting against the repeal and several Republicans voting for it.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a statement following the vote:

"Today the Washington State Senate took a historic, bipartisan vote, passing Attorney General-requested legislation to eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thank you to legislative leaders and advocates who worked so hard to make this historic vote happen. There's more work to do -- Speaker Chopp and the state House now have the opportunity to abolish our broken death penalty."

The bill still has to go to the state house where it's fate is uncertain.

Past bills to ban the death penalty failed in recent years. Governor Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on executions in 2014. As long as that's in place, no inmates in Washington will face execution.

Prior to final passage, Sen. Steve O’Ban sought an amendment to allow the death penalty when a member of law enforcement is killed deliberately in the line of duty.

“We’ve lost over a half a dozen members of law enforcement in Pierce County in the line of duty,” said O’Ban, R-University Place. “My amendment to preserve capital punishment for those who take their lives while protecting us should have been debated and voted on by the Senate. On such a fundamentally important issue, the people’s representatives should be allowed to weigh in.”

Two Democrats, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, lauded the passage.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen:

“For me, there are many compelling reason why Washington should join the 19 other states that have eliminated the death penalty,” said Pedersen, chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. “It is unfairly administered; expensive; and unavailable in wide swaths of our state. Those convicted of aggravated first-degree murder should die in prison with no hope of parole. The taxpayers do not need to spend millions of dollars to hasten that death.” As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Pedersen held the first hearing on an abolition bill in the House of Representatives in 2013.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle:

“This is a difficult and serious public issue, and a personal decision for each legislator. And in this discussion, we offer no personal judgments, no moral criticism and no righteousness against those with whom we disagree,” said Carlyle. “But my personal religious conviction leaves me unable to support a policy that is clearly applied inequitably across our nation and that I believe does not represent our best values of grace. For nine years as a legislator I have led efforts to eliminate the death penalty in favor of life in prison. Today’s vote represents an evolution in thinking about the death penalty and I am grateful that we are making meaningful progress toward that goal.”