Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on February 11 that he would issue a reprieve for any death penalty case that reaches his desk. He said he does not intend to commute the sentences of the nine men on the state’s death row, but his action will ensure that no executions occur while he is governor. In his press conference announcing the decision, Inslee said, “Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility. And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served. The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.” He also cited the death penalty’s lack of deterrent effect and said that it is unnecessary when the state has the sentencing option of life without parole. His decision to institute a moratorium came after discussions with victims’ family members, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials. The governor said he hoped his action will prompt a deeper discussion of capital punishment in the state.

Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon took similar action in November, 2011, saying that he would not allow any executions during his term. In Colorado in 2013, Governor John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve in an upcoming execution, implying that his concerns with the death penalty applied to all cases.

(R. La Corte, “Washington governor suspends death penalty,” Associated Press, February 11, 2014.) Read the Governor’s remarks. See New Voices and Death Penalty in Flux.