Executions Are Suspended by Governor in Washington

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from The New York Times,

The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, announced Tuesday that no executions would take place in the state while he remained in office, despite the fact that the death penalty was legal there.

Citing “problems that exist in our capital punishment system,” Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, said he would issue a reprieve in any death penalty case that crossed his desk, though he would not let any death row prisoners go free. A future governor could reverse this action, he noted, and order an execution to be carried out.

The move makes Washington the latest in a series of states to step away from capital punishment and makes Mr. Inslee the third Democratic governor in recent years to say something similar. Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon announced in 2011 that he would not permit any executions on his watch, and last year Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado issued an indefinite reprieve in the only death penalty case during his tenure.

The death penalty is legal in a majority of states, although 18 states have outlawed it, including six that have done so in the last six years. For governors who oppose the death penalty, refusing to order executions may be an easier way to make a point than to try to reverse a law.

“There are too many flaws in the system,” Mr. Inslee said on Tuesday. He noted that since the state’s current capital punishment laws were enacted in 1981, more than half of the 32 death sentences imposed in Washington had been overturned. “And when the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

He added, “With my action today, I expect Washington State will join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.”

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