Celebrating the Death of the Death Penalty

The Seattle Times reported last week that the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled unanimously to end the practice of capital punishment – the death penalty – in our state. This unanimous ruling comes after an examination of the policy and its legacy of biased and arbitrary application.

As long-standing opponents of the death penalty, the Libertarian Party of King County applauds this ruling and encourages the Legislature to finish what the Court has started.

Following efforts earlier this year to abolish the death penalty in the state Legislature, which passed the Senate and stalled in the House, concerned citizens and civil rights advocates might turn their efforts towards a bill that would mandate a life sentence for charges like aggravated murder. Although this would represent a step in the right direction, such actions do not nearly go far enough.

“Arbitrary and racially discriminatory” laws and policies abound in our state, from the arrest and conviction rates for non-violent drug offenses (like growing marijuana for personal use), to byzantine and onerous zoning laws that have created a shortage of affordable housing by increasing costs and creating administrative backlogs.

It’s increasingly clear that the proliferation of laws, ordinances and regulations in our state are intended to serve campaign contributors, and that our elected officials (with few exceptions) prefer to keep the records of their interactions with those moneyed interests from public view.

While the judiciary’s power to check the errors and overreach of the other branches of government is part of the system by design, the process is costly and time-consuming, and often comes with significant complication, as the McCleary ruling demonstrated – we cannot rely on the judiciary to fix everything that’s broken.

We call on our elected officials to embrace simplicity, justice, transparency and accountability in government, and to pursue these ideals with as much fervor as they do campaign contributions.