Seattle Courant

Senate Committee Hears Testimony Over Abolishing the Death Penalty

By Keith Vance
February 10, 2009 05:02PM

Some of the proponents of senate bill 5476 came from the Washington State Catholic Conference, Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the bill's sponsor Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

Murray said that the legislature should ask whether the death penalty is a cost-effective method of punishment, has it been applied fairly and is it humane. How many times have people been exonerated by D.N.A. evidence, Murray asked the committee members.

In terms of money, the state is facing a $6 billion budget deficit. Jeff Ellis testified on behalf of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, he said that the death penalty robs precious resources away from law enforcement and victims.

"We are spending money on the death penalty when we could spend that money on victims," Ellis said.

The only people speaking in favor of the death penalty were Republican committee members Pam Roach from Auburn and Mike Carrell of Lakewood.

Roach asked several questions, only to interrupt the person trying to answer them.

Directing a question to Ellis, Roach asked whether taking away the death penalty would take away the victim's "sense of justice here on Earth?"

When Ellis attempted to answer the question, Roach cut him off and said, just answer answer the question 'yes' or 'no.'

"I can't answer it 'yes' or 'no'," Ellis said. Shortly after this exchange, he said, "I'm deeply disturbed at the level of discourse" here today. "We need to have a full and civilized conversation about this issue."

"He's going on and on," Roach said of Ellis.

Committee chair Kline reminded her that the purpose of the meeting was to hear their testimony.

Sen. Carrell defended the death penalty. He said that not pursuing the death penalty in the Gary Ridgway case "was an absolute travesty of justice."

Carrell asked Kim Sheley representing the Washington State Catholic Conference if those 40 some women victims of the Green River killer could come back, "Do you believe they would have thought if that was justice?"

Sheley said that only those women could answer that question, however, "We have to be consistent in how we apply a penalty that is so permanent."