OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee’s moratorium on capital punishment is a misuse of executive power, said Sen. Steve O’Ban, University Place Republican and chair of the Senate Human Services and Correction committee.
“The Governor abused his power of clemency and has co-opted the role of the Legislature,” O’Ban said at a news conference with Republican lawmakers. He said the move was “a blow to justice” for victims and their families.
O’Ban also introduced a bill in response to Inslee’s moratorium. He said the bill would prohibit a governor from exercising his or her powers of clemency until after receiving a recommendation from the state Clemency and Pardons Board.
King County prosecutors used the threat of capital punishment to force Green River killer Gary Ridgway to cooperate, according to O’Ban. He said similar efforts won’t be possible under Inslee’s moratorium.
O’Ban also said the death penalty discourages inmates from harming correctional officers. Byron Sherf, one of nine men on death row in Washington, murdered corrections officer Jayme Biendl while the death penalty was intact.
Three of the nine men men on death row were convicted in O’Ban’s district.
Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, questioned the timing of Inslee’s announcement, which comes after the Legislature deadline to introduce policy, meaning lawmakers can’t take action until next year.
“A moratorium doesn’t change the process,” he said. “If the governor wanted to change process, there should have been some legislation introduced and we should have had a transparent, open discussion.”
The moratorium is cruel to capital defendants because a future governor could reinstate the death penalty, he said.
Inslee’s moratorium means no one will be executed while he’s in office, but leaves room for future governors to reinstate the death penalty. There are no proposals for legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty this year. Inslee said he would support such a bill if offered.
Monroe Rep. Kirk Pearson, also at the conference, said the moratorium keeps victims from finding closure. “What the governor has done is put politics over victims.”