Capital punishment in Washington state
Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment in the U.S. state of Washington. A total of 110 executions have been carried out in the state and its predecessor territories since 1849. All but three were by hanging.
The first hangings occurred on January 5, 1849, when Cussas and Quallahworst, two Native Americans, were hanged for murder. Executions are rarely carried out in the state — the most executions in one year was five in 1939, and there was an average of less than one hanging per year between 1849 and 1963.
The death penalty was abolished in 1913 and reinstated in 1919. The statute remained unchanged until 1975, when it was again abolished. A referendum in the same year reinstated it for a second time as the mandatory penalty for aggravated murder in the first degree. Supreme Court of the United States rulings in Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976) and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), 431 U.S. 633 (1977), meant that such a law was unconstitutional and the statute was modified to give detailed procedures for imposing the death penalty.
This new law was itself found unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court, as a person who had pled not guilty could be sentenced to death, while someone who pled guilty would receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The current law was passed in 1981 to correct these constitutional defects.
Death Row for males is located at Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, which is also the site of executions. Females are housed at Washington Corrections Center for Women at Purdy near Gig Harbor while awaiting execution.
Since June 6, 1996, inmates have been able to choose if their execution will be carried out by lethal injection or hanging. If the inmate makes no decision, lethal injection is the standard method. It should also be noted that Washington is the only state with an active gallows (Delaware dismantled theirs in 2003).
According to the Revised Code of Washington § 10.95.180, executions in Washington:
- "…shall be inflicted by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death and until the defendant is dead, or, at the election of the defendant, by hanging by the neck until the defendant is dead."
On September 10, 2010, Washington became the second state, after Ohio, to use a single dose injection of sodium thiopental as opposed to the typical three drug protocol used in most other jurisdictions. The single-drug protocol was used during the execution of Cal Brown.
The following are considered circumstances for aggravated first degree murder:
- Murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer, corrections officer, or firefighter
- Murder by a prisoner
- Contract killing
- Murder resulting from the discharge of a firearm from or near a motor vehicle
- Murder while committing robbery, rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson
- Murder of more than one person
- Murder of a news reporter to obstruct or hinder
- Murder of a person who held a restraining order against the assailant
- Murder of a person with whom the murderer had a "family or household members"
- Murder to obtain or maintain membership or to advance position in the hierarchy of an organization, association, gang or identifiable group
Other offenses that may result in a death penalty include:
Executions since 1976
A total of five individuals have been executed by the state of Washington since 1976. All were convicted of murder.
|Name||Date of Execution||Method||Victim||Governor|
|1||Westley Allan Dodd||January 5, 1993||hanging||Cole Neer, William Neer, and Lee Islei||Booth Gardner|
|2||Charles Rodman Campbell||May 27, 1994||hanging||Renae Wicklund, Shannah Wicklund, and Barbara Hendrickson||Mike Lowry|
|3||Jeremy Vargas Sagastegui||October 13, 1998||lethal injection||Kievan Sarbacher, Melissa Sarbacher, and Lisa Vera Acevado||Gary Locke|
|4||James Homer Elledge||August 28, 2001||lethal injection||Eloise Jane Fitzner||Gary Locke|
|5||Cal Coburn Brown||September 10, 2010||lethal injection||Holly Washa||Christine Gregoire|
As of August 11, 2012, there were seven individuals on Washington's death row, all of them men.
The Washington State Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is a 501(c)3 organization, incorporated in 1986. They oppose the death penalty on several moral and practical grounds, including its financial cost, low value as a deterrent, psychological cost to victim families and the clear execution of innocent people in other states.
In 2004, the Washington State Bar Association's Council on Public Defense chartered a sub-committee to examine "the practical wisdom of continuing to pursue death penalty prosecutions in light of Washington's experience with sentence reversals, potential benefits to the criminal justice system from cost savings" and other matters. Made up of both opponents and advocates, the subcommittee issued its final report in December, 2006. Noting the extra costs associated with capital trials and great disparities in the current system, the report suggested that compensation for attorneys be increased, with all defense and prosecution costs to be paid by the state.
As of 2012, the Washington State Department of Corrections lists eight men on death row. http://www.doc.wa.gov/offenderinfo/capitalpunishment/sentencedlist.asp
- RCW 10.95.180
- RCW 10.95.030
- RCW 9.82.010
- Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
- Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)
- Department of Corrections
- Capital Punishment in Washington State. Washington State Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.
- Offenders Currently under Sentence of Death Washington State Department of Corrections. Retrieved on 2012-08-12.
- Race and the Death Penalty. Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.
- State & County QuickFacts – Washington. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on 2007-11-10.
- Final Report on the Death Penalty Subcommittee of the Committee on Public Defense, Washington State Bar Association, December 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
- The Truth About the Death Penalty, Washington Coalition To Abolish the Death Penalty web site. Accessed on 2010-06-19.