Seattle prosecutors cut a deal with cop-killer Charles Champion that spared his life and underscored the increasing difficulty in and imposing the death penalty in Washington State, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng agreed to reduce Champion’s aggravated-murder charge for shooting to death Des Moines Officer Steven Underwood. Champion agreed yesterday to serve a 26- to 34-year prison sentence.
This was the second recent high-profile murder case in which Maleng took the death penalty off the table to help secure a conviction. The first was Green River killer Gary Ridgway, who pleaded guilty a year ago in exchange for life in prison. That came after Maleng pledged that he “will not bargain with the death penalty.” Champion’s attorneys argued — as have death penalty opponents around the state — that their client should not be eligible for state execution if Ridgway, who killed 48 women, wasn’t. No high court judge has ruled on whether Ridgway’s plea should mean other murderers should not face execution. The Post-Intelligencer says the debate is growing louder and has made prosecutors more skittish about asking for the death penalty, juries more reluctant to impose it, and judges more likely to overturn any such convictions.