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Washington state suspends death penalty

AP

Washington state’s governor said he was suspending the use of the death penalty, saying he hopes it will enable officials to “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.”

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he came to the decision after months of review and meetings with family members of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement.

“There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today,” Inslee told a news conference. “There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

Inslee said the use of the death penalty is inconsistent and unequal.

The moratorium, which he says will be in place for as long as he’s governor, means that if a death penalty case comes to his desk, he will issue a reprieve, which isn’t a pardon and doesn’t commute the sentences of those condemned to death. Rather than face capital punishment, death row inmates will simply remain in prison.

“During my term, we will not be executing people,” said Inslee. But “nobody is getting out of prison, period.”

In Maryland, lawmakers last year did away with the death penalty, becoming the 18th state to do so and the sixth in six years. Colorado’s governor last year decided to indefinitely stay an execution, saying he had concerns about the fairness of the system and would be unlikely to allow the delayed case to move forward while he was in office. And Oregon’s governor in 2011 issued a moratorium similar to what is now in effect in Washington state.