Category Archives: The Death Penalty

The execution of Troy Davis: A pivotal moment in death penalty debate?

The most controversial American execution in recent memory was carried out last night in Georgia. Troy Davis, convicted of murdering  police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia in August 1989, was put to death amidst a wave of protests outside the prison and around the country.

The uproar was not actually centered around the death penalty itself, but rather that several witnesses had recanted their testimony of Davis’ culpability since the trial that sealed his fate.

That didn’t stop former president Jimmy Carter from hoping the case “will spur us as a nation toward the total rejection of capital punishment,” according to an AP story.

Georgia, as far as I can tell, executes far more people than Washington. There are close to 100 people on death row there. Eight people currently inhabit Washington’s death row, with the oldest case — the murder of Cassie Holden in June 1988 — occurring in Kitsap County.

Readers, how do you feel about Davis’ execution?

Is There Justice When Death Comes Before the Death Penalty on Death Row?

The state of Washington rarely executes people. And thus it’s possible, for inmates on death row doing twenty or more years preparing for such a fate, that they may instead die of other causes.

Ohio State University Professor Douglas Berman wonders if, to proponents of the death penalty, this outcome is justice:

I could imagine some death penalty fans pleased by this kind of news: another convicted murderer no longer is on the planet and the state no longer has to pay the expenses for keeping this killer alive or for litigating any of his claims that his death sentence is illegal or otherwise flawed. And yet, I could also imaging death penalty fans feeling some disappointment because this news means another murderer escaped the formal punishment of death and in essence served a life without parole sentence.

What do our readers out there think?

Inmates Protest Life Sentences: ‘The Other Death Penalty’


A new nationwide campaign kicks off today whose goal is to end the sentence of life without parole. The Other Death Penalty Project,” is starting by sending out the first of more than 900 organizing kits to prisoners across the country.

The project says 33,000 people are in America’s prisons today that will never see the outside again. And that, in the campaign’s eyes, constitutes a violation of a person’s Eighth Amendment rights protecting them from cruel and unusual punishment.

(Please feel free to take a poll on this subject at right.)

Interestingly, it is also taking aim at “those in the anti-death penalty movement who advocate for life without the possibility of parole as an alternative to the more obvious, traditional forms of execution,” a press release from the organization said. “Fundamentally, The Other Death Penalty Project believes that all prisoners should have, at least, the possibility of parole.”

They also cite this fact: that there are 12 prisoners in the entire rest of the world serving life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as juveniles; there are more than 2,000 in the United States. And they call America worse than China or Iran for having so many given a sentence that locks the door and throws away the key.

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Attorney General: If Cost was Main Issue, Death Penalty Would Already Be Gone

mckenna1If cost was the “determinative” issue, Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said the death penalty “would have been gone a long time ago.”

Several states are considering dropping the ultimate penalty, though not because of the moral debates that have raged on for so long. They’re doing it to save money.

I had a chance to briefly chat with McKenna (left) while interviewing him about a public records bill. I asked him what he felt about other states, including New Mexico, and their efforts to eliminate the penalty.

“It’s a fact that the death penalty is very expensive to carry out, and opponents have seen (the economic downturn) as a way to advance their agenda,” he said.

He still believes in the death penalty, nonetheless.

“I’ve said for a long time that the people of this state have right to impose the ultimate penalty for the most serious crimes,” he said.

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Roundup: Illegal TV Loggers, a Local ‘America’s Most Wanted’ Arrest and More

Here’s a quick roundup of justice-related stories around the northwest that caught my eye.

Featured fugitive captured: An Oklahoma man that was recently featured on “America’s Most Wanted” — the long running show that keeps criminals on the run — has been caught in Grays Harbor County, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers stopped James Joseph Reimer, 41, about 3 p.m. Saturday for “routine traffic violations.” He was apparently driving a Mercury XR7 and had a 14-year-old in the front seat.

Oklahoma authorities had charged Reimer with luring the girl with sexually-explicit text messages. He’ll eventually be extradited back to the state to face the felony charges. No word yet on what brought him to the Evergreen State.

Local ‘Ax Men’ Under Investigation: On a recent episode of the History Channel’s “Ax Men,” loggers from Cle Elum-based company S&S Aqua Logging are seen pulling wood from the Hoquiam River. That’s a no-no according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. The company should have pursued permits to do so, officials said. In the quote of the day, Larry Raedel, the DNR’s chief of law enforcement services, said: “We get our cases from TV now,” the Seattle Times reported.

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Another Execution Averted — For Now

Updating an earlier item, Cal Coburn Brown, 50, was due to be executed early this morning at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

But he wasn’t. Why? The Washington State Supreme Court issued a stay about nine hours before he was due to die by lethal injection.

His lawyers’ arguments were similar to those in two other death penalty cases in the state: that lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. How far such an argument goes remains to be seen. But it looks like we won’t know anything until May, when a Thurston County judge weighs in on the topic.

Death Penalty Appeals: How Long is Too Long?

The Christian Science Monitor today examines the issue of lengthy appeals in death penalty cases, and poses an intriguing question: how long is too long to wait?

Reporter Warren Richey looked into an appeal filed by lawyers of Florida death row inmate William Lee Thompson, who’s been a dead man walking for 32 years. The U.S. Supreme Court decided recently to turn down the case, which argued that more than three decades on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Washington, less than 24 hours away from its first execution since 2001, will put to death a man convicted in 1993. And Washington’s longest serving death row inmate, who killed a 12-year-old girl in East Bremerton, has been there since 1991, an 18 year stay.

The Monitor’s story contains fascinating comments from supreme court justices, and their thoughts on such delays. Among them:

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Another Try: State Set Friday for First Execution Since 2001

A last minute appeal thwarted a Clallam County man from being executed in December. Now, another defendant is headed for Walla Walla’s death chamber, and is down to his last week to live.

On Friday, corrections officials are planning to carry out the lethal injection of Cal Coburn Brown, 50 (at left), convicted of the first-degree murder of 22-year-old Holly Washa near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 1991.

It would mark the first execution in the state since 2001, and just the fifth in Washington since 1963.

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