Twenty years ago, Dwayne Anthony Woods was convicted of murdering two women, sentenced to die and sent to Washington state’s death row. Claiming he was innocent, he launched a series of appeals that kept him alive and denied the victims’ families the justice they wanted. The appeals came to an end this month when Woods, 46, died of a heart attack. It was the only death on death row since Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on executions in 2014. If Inslee has his way, the eight who remain will also die of disease or old age, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In the broadening fight against capital punishment, his strategy for clearing death row now plays a key role, with similar moratoriums in place in Oregon, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Opposition to the death penalty has grown amid concerns over whether some innocent people have been put to death, discrimination against African Americans in sentencing, the costs of appeals, and the methods states use to carry out The number of executions has fallen dramatically, from a peak of 98 in 1999 to 20 last year. There are about 2,900 people on death rows across the country, down from a peak of nearly 3,600 in 2000. Over the last decade, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, New Mexico, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware have abolished capital punishment, placing them among the 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, where the most severe punishment is life in prison without the possibility of parole. Moratoriums are a way for governors to halt executions without putting the issue directly to voters or to state legislatures.