Washington state Supreme Court declares death penalty unconstitutional
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Washington state Supreme Court declares death penalty unconstitutional

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s death penalty laws are unconstitutional.

The opinion comes out of the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, who had previously been convicted of aggravated first degree murder and sentenced to death. Gregory appealed this conviction, and his case was remanded for resentencing. Another jury then sentenced him to death, and he appealed that sentencing. In his appeal, he asked “[w]hether Washington’s death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” In order to examine this question, “Gregory commissioned a study on the effect of race and county on the imposition of the death penalty.”

In reaching their conclusion, the court relied heavily on the analysis and conclusions from the study. The study found that “special sentencing proceedings in Washington State involving Black defendants were between 3.5 and 4.6 times as likely to result in a death sentence as proceedings involving non-Black defendants after the impact of the other variables included in the model has been taken into account.” The Court ultimately found that “Washington’s death penalty is administered in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” and that it ultimately “fails to serve penological goals.”

As a result of this finding, the court ordered that all death sentences be “converted to life imprisonment.”