Eight death-row inmates will now serve life in prison after Thursday's ruling by the Washington state Supreme Court.
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the death penalty violates the state constitution. The unanimous decision orders the sentences of eight people on death row to be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Here’s the list of those inmates, according to the state’s Department of Corrections:
Jonathan L. Gentry, 62, convicted in 1991 of fatally bludgeoning Cassie Holden, 12, in Kitsap County in 1988.
Cassie, who was living in Idaho, was visiting her mother in Bremerton for the summer when she was killed with blows from a two-pound rock. She appeared to have been sexually assaulted before she was killed. Three witnesses reported seeing a man matching Gentry’s description near the time and place of the murder, and three fellow inmates testified that he had admitted to them that he killed the girl.
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The Supreme Court in 2014 rejected his petition for release, which argued that his trial was tainted by racial bias. Gentry is black; Cassie was white. He claimed that prosecutors made racist comments to his counsel, offered testimony of white witnesses who used racist language and focused on physical evidence that described the suspect as having “Negroid characteristics.” Gentry also emphasized that he was sentenced by an all-white jury and his trial was presided over by a white judge.
Clark R. Elmore, 66, convicted in 1995 of the rape and murder of Christy Onstad, 14, in Whatcom County in 1995.
Christy was the daughter of Elmore’s girlfriend, who lived with Elmore in Bellingham. In a graphic taped confession, Elmore said Christy had threatened to tell someone that he had molested her when she was younger. On the day she was murdered, Elmore picked her up at school, took her to a secluded area, and then raped and strangled her.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his death sentence in 2015. Elmore claimed his trial was prejudicial because the jury was allowed to see him shackled and that his attorney made mistakes in having him plead guilty and not pursue a brain-injury defense.
Cecil E. Davis, 59, convicted in 1998 of the murder of Yoshiko Couch, 65, in Pierce County in 1997.
Couch was found dead at her Tacoma home after being robbed, raped and suffocated with towels soaked in a solvent. A Pierce County jury sentenced Davis to death after deliberating for just 90 minutes. (Davis was also convicted in 1997 of the murder of Jane Hungerford-Trapp in Tacoma.)
The Supreme Court overturned his sentence in 2004, saying that a juror may have considered him dangerous because they saw him in ankle shackles during his trial. But a second jury in Pierce County re-sentenced him to death in 2007.
The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty last year, rejecting his argument that the state’s system fails to protect defendants with intellectual disabilities from being executed. No one at Davis’ trial testified that he had an intellectual disability.
Dayva M. Cross, 59, convicted in 2001 for the stabbing deaths of his wife, Anouchka Baldwin, 37, and stepdaughters Amanda Baldwin, 15, and Salome Holle, 18, in King County in 1999.
Cross and Anouchka Baldwin had been arguing in their Snoqualmie home when Cross stabbed her, Baldwin’s third daughter testified. He then attacked Holle and forced his way into a bedroom where Amanda and the third daughter were hiding. He then stabbed Amanda.
The Supreme Court upheld Cross’ sentence in 2014, rejecting his claims that his admission of guilt when he was first in custody violated his constitutional rights and that he had had ineffective counsel.
Robert Lee Yates Jr., 66, convicted in 2002 of murdering Melinda Mercer, 24, in 1997 and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, 35, in Pierce County in 1998.
Yates, a serial killer, received a plea deal and was sentenced to 408 years in prison in 2000 after he confessed to 13 murders in Spokane, Walla Walla and Skagit counties. In Pierce County, prosecutors sought and obtained the death penalty for the murders of Mercer and Ellis.
The Supreme Court in 2015 rejected his petition to overturn his convictions and death sentence, saying that it had been filed too late after his sentence became final.
Conner M. Schierman, 37, convicted in 2010 of murdering Olga Milkin, 28, her sons Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3, and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, in 2006 in King County.
Schierman stabbed Milkin, her sister and two children and then burned their Kirkland house down to cover the crime. Schierman was seen on surveillance video buying gas from a nearby station right before the fire broke up but told investigators that he had been in an alcoholic blackout. Milkin’s husband had been deployed in Iraq when the murders occurred.
In a split decision earlier this year, the state Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence after debate that centered on whether Schierman’s rights to a public trial were violated.
Allen E. Gregory, 46, convicted in 2001 of raping and murdering Geneine Harshfield, a 43-year-old cocktail waitress who lived near his grandmother, in 1996. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling came in his case.
His case was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2006 but he was reconvicted in 2012.
Byron E. Scherf, 60, convicted in 2013 of the murder of correctional Officer Jayme Biendl of Granite Falls at the Monroe Correctional Complex in 2011.
Scherf was serving a life sentence for the abduction and rape of a Spokane real-estate agent after making an appointment with her to see a home in 1995.
Executions in the past 25 years
There have been five executions since 1993, when the death penalty was carried out for the first time in 30 years. Two inmates were from Snohomish County and one each was from King, Benton and Clark counties. All were men; a woman has never been executed in Washington.
Westley Allan Dodd, 31, was executed by hanging in 1993. Dodd was convicted of killing three boys in the Vancouver and Portland areas in 1989. He chose hanging over lethal injection because, he said, he had hanged one of his victims.
Charles R. Campbell, 39, was executed by hanging in 1994. He was convicted of the murders of Renae Wicklund, 31, her daughter, Shannah, 8, and a neighbor, Barbara Hendrickson, 51, in Clearview, Snohomish County, in 1982.
Jeremy Sagastegui, 27, was executed by lethal injection in 1998. He was convicted of the 1995 murders of Mellisa Sarbacher, 21, her son, 3-year-old Keivan, and her friend, Lisa Vera-Acevedo, 26, near Kennewick. He was the first inmate to die by lethal injection. He said he committed the murders because he knew he would receive the death penalty.
James H. Elledge, 58, was executed by lethal injection in 2001. He pleaded guilty to murdering Eloise Fitzner in a Lynnwood church in 1998 and urged the jury to sentence him to death.
Cal Coburn Brown, 52, was executed by lethal injection in 2010. Brown was executed 16 ½ years after he was convicted of the rape and murder of Holly Washa of Burien in 1991. Brown was the first inmate in Washington to be executed by a single-drug lethal injection.