KVI interview: Is this the death of the death penalty?

Death Penalty execution chamber gurney KOMO11.jpg

A push to end the death penalty in Washington state made its debut in the Legislature Monday Jan. 22, 2018, with some big name criminal justice leaders backing the plan. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, testified before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Satterberg tells KVI why he thinks its time to end the death penalty. The bill he's supporting was introduced by Walla Walla Republican Maureen Walsh. (file photo: KOMO News)

Citing the cost of lengthy appeals and other states where defendants were railroaded by dubious prosecutions or evidence, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg tells KVI's Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson it is time for Washington to repeal its death penalty law.

"What I'm looking at is a 38 year history that if you really look at this in the way its been applied across the state, first of all only three counties (King, Pierce and Snohomish) can afford it. So most of the state, this is a hypothetical punishment", Satterberg said on the air. "In fact, the prosecutors and local leaders there live in fear of a death penalty case. It would bankrupt their county. "

Satterberg said King County spent $12 million just for the defense attorneys on the trial of the 2007 Christmas Eve Carnation murder case of a family of six that resulted in the jury refusing to impose the death penalty on Joseph McEnroe in that death penalty case. After a lone juror held out against the death penalty for McEnroe, Satterberg's office decided against seeking the death penalty for McEnroe's co-conspirator, Michelle Anderson, who gunned down several members of her family--including her 5-year-old niece and 3-year-old nephew.

Satterberg stated flatly, "When we tell the public that we have a death penalty in Washington, we don't. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you the truth but the death penalty doesn't work here."

Wilbur suggested there could be reforms made regarding the appeal process to facilitate prudent legal review but limit nuisance claims within that appellate process.

"There are reforms that could be done to the process that would allow the accused a fair defense...that wouldn't cost millions of dollars. Endless appeals over minor points that usually wind up being tossed out. You can limit the appeals. You can have a system that's more reflective of our values that's fair to the accused," Wilbur explained. "But I just think at some point the purpose of the death penalty is to say 'there are some crimes beyond which it just go beyond the pale.' Raping a 7-year-old girl. Killing a police officer. And the death penalty (is) civilization saying, 'You can go too far and you can pay the ultimate price.' And you can call it 'leverage'. I just think its ridiculous to say justice is too expensive. We can't find a way to pay for it (trial/appeal) so we're gonna change it."

Satterberg stammered out his response, "Well, I, uh, when people tell me it's easy to fix it, I don't believe it."

Senate Bill 6052 would abolish the state death penalty. Citizens are encouraged to contact their State Representatives and State Senator to share their view about maintaining or banning the death penalty. The Legislative hotline phone number is 1-800-562-6000

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