Death Penalty, Rarely Used, Becomes a Bargaining Chip in WA


Early this year, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne called Washington state’s death penalty law a “farce” and suggested it is so ineffective that the Legislature should consider getting rid of it. When time came to find an abducted 12-year-old Tacoma girl, though, he was glad to have it. Four days after Zina Linnik disappeared, Horne – believing time was running out to find her alive – promised not to seek the death penalty against the suspect, Terapon Adhahn, if he would tell detectives where she was. Adhahn agreed, leading them to her body in rural Pierce County.

Without the death penalty, “we would have no leverage in some instances,” Horne said this week. “It’s nice to have that tool in your kit.” Horne’s attitude reflects the evolving considerations prosecutors in Washington weigh when dealing with potential capital cases, reports the Associated Press. The death penalty is rarely invoked in the state. For generations, prosecutors there refused to use the death penalty as a “bargaining chip” in obtaining guilty pleas. That is changing.


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