US & Canada

Washington governor suspends death penalty

Governor Jay Inslee announces he is suspending the use of the death penalty in Washington state during a news conference in Olympia, Washington 11 February 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Inslee said the state's capital punishment system "falls short of equal justice under the law"

The governor of the US state of Washington has put a halt to executions there, saying the death penalty is used unequally and inconsistently.

Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said he would grant a reprieve in any death penalty case that required his action.

"There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system," Mr Inslee said.

The move does not permanently abolish Washington's death penalty, which would require legislation. The state has executed five convicts since 1976.

That year, states were allowed to re-instate the death penalty after a brief Supreme Court-ordered moratorium.

The north-western state's legislature has previously considered outlawing the death penalty but has never moved beyond public hearings on the issue.

'No executions, period'

The first-term Democratic governor said he came to the decision after months of review, and meetings with family members of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

"There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today," Mr Inslee said at a news conference, noting that a majority of the state's capital punishment cases had been reduced to life prison sentences.

There are currently nine men on Washington's death row. The moratorium will last at least as long as Mr Inslee is governor. He is up for re-election in 2016.

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

Mr Inslee also said he expected the move would push the state into joining "a growing national conversation about capital punishment".

Last year, Maryland abolished the death penalty, becoming the 18th state to do so and the sixth in the last six years.

Thirty-two US states allow capital punishment, but Oregon's governor has declared a similar moratorium and many states have been pushed into a de facto moratorium due to shortages of the drugs used for executions.

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