Washington state could become the next state to take the death penalty off its books if a bipartisan effort to repeal the punishment finds favor among the state’s politicians, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) this week announced a repeal bill with support from both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature. Once considered a left-leaning view, opposition to the death penalty has gained broader support as more analysis on the lengthy and costly legal proceedings of capital punishment has pushed officials to give pragmatic concerns at least as much weight as ethical appeals. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have abolished capital punishment.
Practical arguments have begun to pull the issue above the partisan fray, helping repeal proposals get increasing support among courts, legislatures, and governors who may not agree on the moral questions surrounding the penalty, but can find common concerns among the financial and discriminatory issues stemming from its use. “There’s been a real change in the way in which people are thinking about the death penalty,” said Amherst College Prof. Austin Sarat, author of the 2014 book, “Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty.” Washington is not the only state considering a rethinking of its capital punishment system. Three others– California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma – all weighed in on the death penalty through ballot measures last fall. Despite the states’ varied political leanings, each saw a majority cast ballots in favor of keeping the punishment on the books.