A bipartisan group of Washington state legislators on Monday said they would introduce new measures to end the state’s death penalty.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) and Republicans and Democrats from both chambers of the state legislature said capital punishment had become too costly, and that there is little evidence that the death penalty deters any crimes. State Sen. Mark Miloscia (R) will introduce legislation in the Republican-led Senate, while state Rep. Tina Orwall (D) will carry the bill in the Democratic-led House.
“As a means of effective punishment, the death penalty is outdated,” state Sen. Maureen Walsh (R) said in a statement released by Ferguson’s office. “Not only is life-without-parole more cost-effective, it also offers the certainty that is an essential element of justice.”
Both Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and former Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), who lost to Inslee in the 2014 race for governor, back the proposal.
There are only nine condemned prisoners on Washington State’s death row. Inslee implemented a moratorium on executions in 2014, and the state has not executed anyone since 2010.
Only five prisoners have been executed in Washington since the death penalty was reimplemented in 1975, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Washington would be the 20th state in the nation to end the death penalty, 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions. In recent years, legislators in Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois and New Mexico have outlawed capital punishment.
Nebraska’s state legislature ended the death penalty in 2015, though voters reinstated it through a ballot measure in November 2016.
Nationally, the use of the death penalty has declined precipitously in recent years. Since hitting a peak in 1999, when 98 prisoners were executed, the number of sentences carried out has fallen virtually every year. In 2016, only 20 prisoners were put to death, the lowest number since 1991, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Last year, just five states — Texas, Florida, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama — put prisoners to death.
The number of death sentences has also declined in recent years. In 1998, 295 people were condemned to death. In 2015, the last year for which data are available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 49 people were given capital sentences.