Since the 1500s, Lady Justice has been depicted wearing a blindfold representing impartiality. However, to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and many blacks living in Washington state, she sees clearly in vivid color.
African Americans are disproportionately represented on death row, making up 4 percent of the state’s population but nearly 38 percent of those on death row.
The NAACP has joined with lawmakers and community stakeholders to balance the scales of fairness with Senate Bill 6052 to repeal the state’s death penalty laws.
Eliminating the death penalty is not only racially just, it is fiscally sound. According to the Washington State Bar Association, of 79 death penalty cases (1981 to 2006), 30 resulted in a death sentence, with 19 being reversed on appeal. Costs to prosecution and defense, during the initial trial and on direct appeal, were more than $750,000 more costly than noncapital punishment cases.
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Despite extraordinary efforts by the courts and enormous expense to taxpayers, the modern death penalty remains slow, costly and uncertain. Ending the death penalty brings financial resources to the state budget, which is better spent on proven methods of crime-prevention strategies like community-oriented policing, economic development and public-health services.
Gerald Hankerson, President, NAACP Alaska Oregon Washington