In a Seattle Times op-ed reflecting on the plea agreement for serial killer Gary Ridgway resulting in a life without parole sentence (read more), Washington State Superior Court Judge David A. Nichols stated that the “death penalty as a response to any criminal behavior no longer has validity and should be repealed, because it is impossible to administer with justice and fairness.” He further noted:

We are a nation of laws, ideally applied fairly and proportionally; but we have 50 different death-penalty laws, all of which have different criteria of application. Whether or not to charge or pursue the death penalty is left entirely up to elected prosecuting attorneys, who are often driven by political, social or financial constraints; or, as in this case, circumstances which cause the prosecutor to back down.

Gross numbers of executions are being carried out in some states or regions of the country. An alarming number of convictions have been found to be wrong, and the death penalty is unfairly inflicted upon the poor, minorities and the under-represented.

There is simply no way the death penalty statute can be administered fairly. There are too many variables and inconsistencies to allow any person interested in justice to support.

With its repeal, we would stop its inequitable application, the unconscionable costs associated with its administration, and the endless appeals. There is perhaps a risk that by giving up the death penalty, we would surrender leverage we might have against a Gary Ridgway to reveal the details of what he did, but that is a small price to pay for getting rid of that part of the criminal code that mocks our notions of justice under the law.

A life of incarceration with no hope of ever getting out may seem a small penalty to pay when applied to the worst of our wrongdoers, but the death penalty has no place in a sentencing scheme that strives for justice and fairness to all our citizens.

(Seattle Times, November 8, 2003) See Life Without Parole; New Voices.