The state of Washington has carried out 4 executions in 45 years, the last one being in 2001 when James Elledge waived his appeals and was executed. Some prosecutors, legislators, and defense attorneys are questioning the value of keeping the system. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge (pictured) supports the death penalty but has decided against seeking it in a recent case because he felt the appeals process would simply never end. “In terms of justice, the worst thing that could have happened in that case is the death penalty,” explained Hauge. “It would’ve started another cycle and perhaps 20 more years of appeals, forcing the victim’s family to keep revisiting this tragedy.”

Hauge pursued the death penalty only once and the jury returned a split verdict resulting in a sentence of life in prison. Because Washington death penalty cases take so long, Hauge said, “You’re not going to see any expansion of [the death penalty].” In regard to the appeals process, he said, “I think we’re going to continue to live like this,” as the courts try to ensure they do not make a deadly mistake.

Defense attorney Ron Ness does not believe that the state should be in the business of killing people. He agreed that the capital appeals process is long but unlikely to change: “Mistakes can be made,” Ness said, “And with the death penalty, there’s no way to turn it around. You should have every opportunity to make sure it’s the correct verdict, even if it takes 10 to 15 years.” State Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, believes the death penalty is too expensive and fails to lower violent crime rates in the states that use it. “It has no deterrent effect, zero,” he said. “And its damned expensive.”

The recently scheduled execution of Darold Stenson was stayed by both state and federal courts.

(J. Farley, “Appeals keep death row inmates fighting for life,” Kitsap Sun, November 30, 2008). See Arbritrariness.