The Washington Supreme Court has struck down the state’s death penalty, arguing it was “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”
“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” the high court justices wrote in the majority opinion, according to NPR.
Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who issued a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington in 2014, praised the Supreme Court for its decision, describing the ruling as a “hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice.”
Statement from @GovInslee regarding Supreme Court decision invalidating Washington's death penalty: pic.twitter.com/qqdz6SvUq3
— Aaron Booth (@ActorAaronBooth) October 11, 2018
The court decided to convert the state’s current death sentences to life imprisonment. Right now, there are eight people on death row in Washington, according to the state’s corrections division.
Death row inmate Allen Eugene Gregory, who was found guilty of the 1996 aggravated first-degree murder of a woman, prompted the case, arguing the death penalty in Washington was “unequally applied.” The justices agreed.
The study he commissioned found “black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.” The analysis, it should be noted, concluded racial bias didn’t influence whether prosecutors sought capital punishment, but it did play a role in whether jurors imposed the death penalty.