Published on: Thursday, April 20, 2023

Washington state has officially abolished the death penalty (article available here).

The state’s high court struck down the death penalty in 2018, but the law remained on the books. Besides the death penalty, Senate Bill 5087 also eliminated other laws, including a measure that allowed sterilization as criminal punishment.

“It’s official. The death penalty is no longer in state law,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said on Twitter after the signing. He also thanked legislators and other leaders who were part of the decade-long effort to end the practice, including the state's attorney general.

In 2014, Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty. In 2018, Washington’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down the death penalty, calling it arbitrary and racially biased. “To the extent that race distinguishes the cases, it is clearly impermissible and unconstitutional,” Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote in the lead opinion.

A 2014 report by the University of Washington also found that jurors in the state were "more than four times more likely to impose a death sentence if the defendant is black."

Twenty-seven states still have the death penalty. As of April 1, 2022, there were 2,414 people on death row in the United States, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.