Washington State Strikes Down Death Penalty, Citing Racial Bias

Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty, saying that it was imposed arbitrarily and with racial bias. “We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” the justices wrote in their majority opinion.

Thursday’s ruling makes Washington the 20th state to abolish the death penalty. According to the ACLU, this state supreme court is the third to do so citing concerns about racial disparities.

“The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” the justices wrote. “While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial dis-proportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.”

At the same time, the court didn’t rule out the state imposing the death penalty in the future. “We leave open the possibility that the legislature may enact a ‘carefully drafted statute’ … to impose capital punishment in this state, but it cannot create a system that offends constitutional rights.”


Image adapted from: “Abolish Death Penalty April 4 2011 Janet Valder 003” by codepinkphoenix is licensed under CC BY 2.0