SEATTLE -- Declaring that he is "not convinced equal justice is being served" by the death penalty as it is carried out today, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday declared a moratorium on carrying out executions.
Inslee did not commute the sentences of prisoners on death row or issue pardons. Instead, he said in a written statement, if a death penalty case comes to him for action, he will issue a reprieve.
"Equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility," Inslee said. "The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred."
According to the governor's office, most Washington state death penalty sentences are overturned and executions are rarely carried out, "indicating questionable sentencing in many cases."
The state's current capital punishment laws were put into place in 1981. Since then, 32 convicted offenders have been sentenced to death. Of that group, 18 had their sentences converted to life imprisonment and one defendant was set free.
"Let me say clearly that this policy decision is not about the nine men on death row in Walla Walla," Inslee said. "I don't question their guilt or the gravity of their crimes. They get no mercy from me.
"This action does not commute their sentences or issue any pardons to any offender," he said. "But I do not believe their horrific offenses override the problems that exist in our capital punishment system."
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