Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional not once, not twice, but three times. The Washington State Supreme Court did so again on October 11, 2018.
The defendant, Allen Gregory was convicted of multiple heinous crimes in 1996. He viciously raped, robbed, and murdered the victim. He was found guilty and the jury presided over the penalty phase of his trial. They determined there was not enough mitigating circumstances to merit leniency and sentenced him to death.
The Court did not rule that the death penalty is per se unconstitutional. However, they declared the death penalty was invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. The Court stated, “ While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.” Mr. Gregory, the Defendant, argued the use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant. The Court agreed and held that the death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our state constitution.