On Monday, I will present legislation seeking to abolish the death penalty in Washington state. This is not the first time I have joined this effort, yet my thoughts and opinions on the matter have not changed.
I have had a family member murdered.
I empathize with everyone who has experienced this terrible ordeal of losing a loved one in this way (and I say ordeal — because I know the pain never really goes away).
I recognize we, the family members, may differ on the issue of the death penalty and indeed victims themselves have likely expressed varying points of view on the issue at sometime before their untimely death.
What I believe we would all agree on is not to have lost our loved one in this way — not to have had the crime committed.
So for me, does the death penalty resolve that? Does it bring back my family member? The answer is ‘no’. Did existence of the death penalty prevent that crime? Obviously not. And, would continuing the death penalty prevent future murders? Again, the facts would indicate ‘no’.
Does the necessary legal process in pursuing the death penalty divert funds that could be used to focus more efforts on prevention? The answer is ‘yes’.
And sadly, is there a potential that another innocent life could be taken through execution of someone who was wrongfully convicted? Again, the answer is ‘yes’. Luckily, there is no evidence that has happened in our state.
Does application of the death penalty help the families and friends of the victim with the needed healing process? The answer is ‘no’. In fact, the legal proceedings, which can be lengthy, have the effect of continuing to open the wounds.
The cost of a death penalty cast is prohibitive, topping out at over $400,000. Would that money not be better spent on prevention programs or law enforcement?
Does the application of the death penalty cause the loss of one more human life and a loss to one more family? Even if we (society) feel the life of the perpetrator no longer has value — their family may certainly value them and grieve their loss.
It is my firm belief that the ultimate final judgment is God’s.
Lastly, does the death penalty provide the perpetrator an opportunity to pursue sincere repentance and atonement? Certainly, life without the possibility of parole does provide that opportunity.
In my opinion, that is a very difficult journey — it is not an ‘easy out’ — and in the long-run it provides our society and civilization greater value.