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Washington state officially ends 'racially biased' death penalty

Washington officially ends the death penalty five years after state courts ruled that executions are unconstitutional.
Washington state officially ends 'racially biased' death penalty
Posted at 4:24 AM, Apr 21, 2023

Washington has become the latest state to officially abolish the death penalty nearly five years after a court ruled the practice is unconstitutional. 

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5807 on Thursday, officially marking the end of the death penalty in Washington. Inslee had issued a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014, four years before the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling. 

Judges said in 2018 that Washington’s death penalty law was “arbitrary” and “racially biased.”

“This is a day to move forward with fairness in the state of Washington,” Inslee said as he signed the bill. 

SEE MORE: Why are states considering firing squad executions?

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, executions were relatively rare in Washington prior to the moratorium. There were five reported after 1976, with the most recent coming in 2010. 

Washington is among 23 states without the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Virginia joined the list in 2021, while Colorado abolished executions in 2020. 

Among the 27 states where executions are legal, the governors of Oregon, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania have said in various public forums they would not allow executions. Ohio has effectively been unable to perform executions as the state looks for alternative drugs to perform lethal injections. Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine delayed three executions to 2026.

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