Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I wanted to give you an update on the legislative session and thank those of you who participated in our recent telephone town hall. That's going to have to wait. We have something more important to discuss.
Reducing sentences for the most violent criminals
As you may recall, Gov. Inslee issued an executive order a few years ago suspending the death penalty in Washington state. Late last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the application of the death penalty went against the state constitution because of racial inequities. Rather than have the Legislature take up the issue to fix current statute, some in Olympia proposed legislation (Senate Bill 5339) to do away with the law altogether.
What's even more troubling is the second part of this story. Additional legislation to eliminate the next harshest criminal sentence – life without the possibility of parole – was sponsored (Senate Bill 5819) and is now moving through the legislative process.
If both these bills pass as introduced, the harshest penalty in our state would be “life in prison,” which any good prosecutor will tell you equates to 15-20 years in prison, with good behavior. That's it. 15-20 years for the most heinous crimes committed by violent sexual predators and murderers. And that's just the starting point. What happens when prosecutors decide to negotiate plea deals? We could easily see these offenders receiving 8-10 years in prison, and then back into our communities with plenty of time to find more victims.
This is unacceptable, in my opinion. We're already seeing violent sexual predators released back into our communities. This issue is about giving prosecutors all the tools necessary to get to the truth, bring justice to victims and their families, and reassurance to our communities.
My colleague, Rep. Jenny Graham, wrote an op-ed in The Spokesman-Review this past weekend. Her sister was a victim of Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. She is working hard to fight against these proposals to reduce sentences for the most violent criminals – and I stand with her.
What do you think? Do you support efforts to eliminate the death penalty? Or should we work to keep it? Do you support eliminating life without parole? Take my quick, two-question survey. Knowing where you stand helps me better represent you, but also helps make my case when talking with my legislative colleagues.
Thank you for staying involved and for providing your feedback. I will send another email update in a few days with updated information on what's happening in Olympia.