Further evidence of the decline in capital punishment in the United States comes with the announcement by Governor Inslee of Washington State of a moratorium on capital punishment.
According to a statement by the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Governor Inslee said the moratorium would last for as long as he is in office. Following months of review including meetings with victims’ families, law enforcement experts and prosecutors, he concluded that there are ‘too many doubts’ about capital punishment. According to the Governor, the capital punishment system ‘does not deter crime, costs citizens millions of dollars more than life in prison without parole’, is ‘unequally applied’ and ‘exposes families to multiple decades of uncertainty’.
Governor Inslee told reporters that he hopes the moratorium will allow Washington State to ‘join a growing national conversation about capital punishment’, and that he would support decision by lawmakers for a permanent ban on the death penalty, the statement said.
‘This is significant progress and we congratulate Governor Inslee for his leadership in the decision to declare a moratorium of capital punishment in Washington State. It is another sign that the death penalty is steadily retreating in the US as more states bring their justice systems into the modern era’, said Federico Mayor, President of the International Commission against the death penalty.
Governor Inslee said that in the 33 years since Washington State enacted its capital punishment laws, 60% of 32 people sentenced to death have had their sentences overturned. ‘When the majority of death penalty sentences lead to reversal, the entire system must be called into question’, he said.
The importance of such developments cannot be underestimated. According to the case law of the Supreme Court of the United States, the ‘evolving standards of decency’ that govern interpretation of the eighth amendment are to be assessed with reference to developments in the law and practice of the States. In 2005, the Supreme Court declared the juvenile death penalty to be unconstitutional based upon a discernable pattern involving a relatively modest number of States.