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Washington's Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's death penalty on Thursday, ruling that it had been handed down as a sentence in an arbitrary and racially discriminatory manner.
Washington has had a moratorium on executions since 2014, but the ruling makes it the 20th state to do away with capital punishment by either court decree or legislative act.
Death - Penalty - Crime - Place - County
'The death penalty is unequally applied - sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant,' Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote in the lead opinion. 'Our capital punishment law lacks '"fundamental fairness."'
The court also converted the sentences of the eight people on Washington's death row to life in prison.
Information - Fairhurst - Extent - Race - Cases
'Now the information is plainly before us,' Fairhurst wrote. 'To the extent that race distinguishes the cases, it is clearly impermissible and unconstitutional.'
Defense lawyers had long challenged the death penalty on those grounds, noting the state's worst mass murderers and serial killers, Green River killer Gary Ridgway among them, had received life terms, not death.
Ruling - Justices - Argument - Death - Row
In a 5-4 ruling in 2006, the justices rejected an argument from a death row inmate that he shouldn't be executed because Ridgway hadn't been executed.
But this time, death penalty critics were armed with more data about how capital punishment works, including a statistical analysis by University of Washington sociologists.
Report - Prosecutors - Execution - Defendants - Juries
Their report showed that although prosecutors were not more likely to seek the execution of black defendants, juries were about four times more likely to sentence black defendants to death.
Governor Jay Inslee, a one-time supporter of capital punishment, imposed the 2014 moratorium.
Democrat - Ruling - Thursday - 'a - Moment
The Democrat called the ruling on Thursday 'a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice,' in a written statement.
'The court makes it perfectly clear...
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