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Can a convicted offender be put to death in Washington?

Does the state of Washington have the death penalty for convicted offenders? Unless one has faced criminal charges, this question might never arise. However, when an individual is charged with a serious crime such as homicide, the severity of Washington's criminal penalties can quickly become that person's primary concern.

Washington State does have the death penalty for certain convicted offenders. Nearly 80 individuals have been put to death in Washington over the past 110 years. However, no convicted individual has been put to death in Washington in several years. Moreover, last year Governor Inslee suspended use of the death penalty for as long as he holds office, citing a flawed system and doubts about capital punishment as the reasons. Inslee noted that if lawmakers pushed for it, he would support a permanent ban on the death penalty.

Despite the governor's suspension of use of the death penalty, there are technically two methods of execution available: lethal injection and, surprisingly, hanging. If an inmate does not choose hanging, the method to be used will be lethal injection. Currently, there are nine individuals on death row in Washington, with the most recent having been convicted of aggravated first-degree murder in 2013.

The status of the death penalty in Washington is far from crystal clear. It is unknown what will occur after Governor Inslee leaves office and whether or not his successor will echo his views on capital punishment. In any case, a thorough and aggressive criminal defense can help a defendant potentially avoid the state's harshest punishments. A criminal charge need not turn into a criminal conviction; if it does, a criminal defense attorney can still help a defendant with negotiations, sentencing, appeals and protecting the inmate's rights.

Source: Department of Corrections Washington State, "Capital Punishment In Washington State," accessed May 1, 2015

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