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Death penalty questions raised

Shar Lichty, PJAL
Shar Lichty, Peace and Justice Action League's Death Penalty Abolition Group presented a workshop.

Shar Lichty of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane’s Death Penalty Abolition Group said that there continue to be legislative efforts to abolish the death penalty.

“It does not make the state safer or lower the homicide rate,” she said, adding that abolishing the death penalty could be a source of saving the state money, because capital cases cost on average $800,000 more in the trial phase, because of the extra precautions in place to prevent innocent people from being convicted and sentenced to death.

Even so, more than 60 percent of Washington’s death row cases have been overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Shar pointed out that it would be more effective to use funds to assist families of victims or help crime labs solve more cold cases.

The death penalty is unfair and arbitrary, given that it’s applied more in some areas than in others.  Because of cost, smaller counties choose not to pursue capital cases.  Race is also a factor, with half of the people on Washington’s death row being African Americans, even though they are only 13 percent of Washington’s population.

“The risks of making mistakes and executing innocent people are too high,” Shar said.  “Nationally, 142 people have been released from death row, and it is uncertain how many on death row are innocent.

She also pointed out that the death penalty fails to meet needs of victims’ families, because due process takes so long.  They have to relive the pain over and over, rather than moving to healing.

“Life without parole is a safe, sane and just alternative,” Shar said.  “Life without parole also costs about one-third what it costs to house people on death row.”

In the past five years, five states have abolished the death penalty and the Oregon governor has put a moratorium on executions.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty cruel punishment, but until nine more states abolish it, it won’t be considered unusual.  Once 26 states abolish it, it will be both cruel and unusual, and then it will be unconstitutional,” Shar said.

For information, call 838-7870.

Copyright © March 2013 - The Fig Tree