OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Lawmakers are considering a measure to abolish the death penalty, an effort that has failed to gain traction in Washington state in prior years.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Debbie Regala of Tacoma, received a public hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Since 1904, 78 men have been put to death in Washington. Eight men are on death row at the state penitentiary.
Opponents of the death penalty say the long, expensive legal process to carry an inmate through to an execution is an enormous sum of money that would be better spent on other programs.
Those in favor of the death penalty say it serves as the only measure of closure for the families of victims.
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Regala said public safety is one of the highest goals of society but that the death penalty is an ineffective way to strive for that goal, because it does not deter people from committing crimes.
"Life without the possibility of parole accomplishes that same goal of public safety," she said.
Life sentences also apply swift justice to perpetrators while disabling them from inflicting more harm on the public, Regala said.
Speaking from experience, she said solace does not come to the family members of victims whose perpetrators are put to death.
"I have had a family member murdered," Regala said, "and I and they have experienced the terrible pain which I know never goes away even after decades have passed."
The legislators heard testimony from attorneys, professors, religious leaders and even a man who sat on death row for 23 years before Gov. Chris Gregoire granted him clemency.
Though the hearing had a high turnout, not a single person signed up to speak against Regala's bill.
The last execution in Washington state was in September 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection Sept. 10 for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman. He was the first Washington inmate executed since 2001, after spending nearly 17 years on death row.
Since Washington adopted its current capital punishment law in 1981, the state has executed five people, according to the Department of Corrections.