they might seek the death penalty in a
Port Orchard, Washington murder case
(Kitsap Sun, Nov. 18, 2014, “No Decision
on Death Penalty in Woman’s Slaying”).
The decision appears to rest on applicability of an appropriate “aggravating factor.” Revised Code of Washington 10.95,
applies only to aggravated murder in the
first degree. Premeditation and a statutorily defined “aggravating factor” must
be proven. Among the now numerous
factors are contract killing, killing a law
enforcement officer in performance of
duties, and committing the crime while
fleeing from prison or already serving
time. Washington disallows the death
penalty for a felony in which one was
not directly responsible for the murder
(“felony murder doctrine”). It prohibits
the penalty for minors and those with
intellectual deficits. A jury determines
Attorneys must be on the state Supreme Court’s list of attorneys qualified
to represent defendants facing capital
charges. This requires an annual class
and extensive experience defending serious felony cases or having served on a
legal team for a death penalty defendant.
As Washington defense lawyer Mark
Larrañaga observes in his web-based
article “Are We Moving Away from the
Death Penalty?” Oct. 10, 2014, historically, Washington has taken an active role in
defining evolving standards for the penalty. For example, in 1993 Washington
concluded that a mature society can no
longer tolerate the execution of juveniles
or individuals with intellectual deficits.
Seven Washington Supreme Court justices since 2006 have concluded that the
death penalty has failed.
Recently, various groups, such as
civil rights and religious-based organizations, have announced renewed pushes
to end the death penalty. However, polls
still show support for the penalty. (“Can
the Death Penalty Be Abolished?,” by
Sandhyn Sonashekhar, Washington Post,
Dec. 9, 2014, citing a poll showing 60 percent of Americans still support the death
penalty, down from 80 percent in 1994.)
On Jan. 26, 2015, House Bill 1739
and companion Senate Bill 5639, which
would abolish the death penalty in
Washington, were introduced. On Feb.
19, 2015, the bill died when Rep. Laurie
Jinkins, D-Tacoma, chairwoman of the
House Judiciary Committee, decided
not to address the bill on the last day to
do so, saying it was not the right time
because public support remained lack-
ing. However, Rep. Reuven Carlyle,
D-Seattle, who introduced the bill,
expressed confidence the bill would
progress next year. Considering the
bill’s introduction, moratorium, recent
election results, interconnected fed-
eral issues, medical and ethical issues,
and the volatility of the political envi-
ronment, the future of the death pen-
alty in Washington is uncertain. NWL
is a retired
who lives near
is a member of
her at email@example.com.
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What would you change about
VOICES OF THE BAR
The next 125
Help us commemorate the WSBA’s 125th anniversary in 2015.
Share your most memorable moment as a lawyer, the story of a
great attorney you’ve admired, a funny memory from law school,
or anything that you’d like to share.
To add your stories through the Voices of the Bar project, call
206-674-6202 or visit www.wsba.org/125. Email wsba125@wsba.
org for more information.