Many people don't know that Washington State still has a death row. On January 25, a coalition of over eighteen organizations will head to Olympia to lobby for an end to Washington's death penalty and to attend the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senate Bill 5456, which would abolish the death penalty. Free transportation is being provided by Safe and Just Alternatives (SJA), the umbrella organization for the coalition.
Mishi Faruqee, Campaign Manager for SJA, believes that "Washington's death penalty system is broken and costly." She says "There is growing momentum for repealing the death penalty in Washington as well as in many states across the country." The SJA campaign seeks to replace Washington's death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.
SJA, whose members include the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, believes that in a time of fiscal challenges and deep budget cuts, Washington can't afford to keep the death penalty. Capital cases are expensive. In Washington, the taxpayer cost of a death penalty trial is estimated to be nearly a million dollars more than the cost of non-death penalty trials. There have been an average of three death penalty cases per year for the past 25 years.
All those dollars are diverted from other services. Many law enforcement officials say that the money could be better spent to help the families of victims and to more effectively fund police departments and crime labs.
Capital cases are also time-consuming. According to the SJA website, "The time spent pursuing one capital case in Washington could solve and prosecute scores of other non-capital cases," reducing the threat of violent criminals on our streets.
Attendees at this year's "Lobby Day" event will talk with legislators and judicial committee members in the morning, and attend the committee's public hearing at 1:30 p.m. If the bill makes it out of committee before the end of this year's legislative session, the legislature will vote on it in 2013.
Five men have been executed in Washington State since 1976. There are currently eight people on death row. One man was released from death row after being found innocent.
Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have repealed the death penalty.
The SJA coalition includes faith, law enforcement, family members of victims, and other organizations from across the state.
Click here for more information about Lobby Day.