OLYMPIA, Washington. (AP) — Washington’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state’s death penalty Thursday as arbitrary and racially biased, making it the 20th state to do away with capital punishment.
Execution was already extremely rare in Washington, with five prisoners put to death in recent decades and a governor-imposed moratorium blocking its use since 2014.
But the court’s opinion eliminated it entirely, converted the sentences for the state’s eight death row inmates to life in prison without release, and furthered a trend away from capital punishment in the U.S.
“The death penalty is becoming increasingly geographically isolated,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.
“It’s still on the books in 30 states, but it’s not being used in 30 states. It’s becoming a creature of the Deep South and the Southwest.”
Texas continues to execute more prisoners than any other state — 108 since 2010.
Florida has executed 28, Georgia 26 and Oklahoma 21 in that timeframe.
But nationally, death sentences are down 85 percent since the 1990s, Dunham said.
In the past 15 years, seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York — have abandoned capital punishment through court order or legislative act, and three — Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania — have adopted moratoriums.