SEATTLE, Washington — The Catholic bishops of Washington state Oct. 11 applauded the unanimous decision of the state Supreme Court striking down the death penalty as unconstitutional.
The court ruled its use is arbitrary and racially biased and converted the sentences for the state’s eight death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Executions have been rare in Washington. Five prisoners have been put to death in recent decades. In 2014, the governor imposed a moratorium blocking its use.
“The bishops have long been on record as opposing capital punishment,” said a statement issued by the Washington State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court indicates a move toward greater justice and greater respect for life at all stages.”
“The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death — it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty,” said Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle.
Earlier this year, Washington’s Catholic bishops provided testimony in support of legislation to repeal the death penalty citing the country’s imperfect record in imposing the death penalty, the potential for racial biases and specific instances where innocent people have been executed for crimes they did not commit.
Since 1973, 161 people sentenced to death have been exonerated in the U.S.
In addition to Sartain, Washington’s bishops are: Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima; and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio L. Elizondo and Daniel H. Mueggenborg of Seattle.
“This decision will save Washington state taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted,” said an official of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
Hannah Cox, the organization’s national manager, added: “Conservatives in Washington state and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that does not value life, threatens innocent people, and wastes money.”