Gov. Inslee signs bill to remove death penalty from state law in Washington

The death penalty is no longer in Washington state law.

Five years after the state Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill officially striking it from Washington law.

"It's official. The death penalty is no longer in state law," Inslee sid in a tweet. "In 2014 I issued a moratorium. In 2018 the state Supreme Court deemed the death penalty unconstitutional. Now in 2023, passage of SB 5087 strikes it entirely from our statutes."

The Washington State Legislature voted in favor of SB 5087 earlier this month.

The law also removes other unconstitutional laws, according to Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office:

  • Forced sterilization. RCW 9.92.100 allows a judge to order certain people sterilized. This is unconscionable and at least questionable under Skinner v. Oklahoma.
  • Loyalty oaths. RCW 9.81.070 required public employees to sign loyalty oaths attesting that they are not communists and do not belong to subversive organizations. The United States Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional in Baggett v. Bullitt.
  • Disclosure of private financial records. RCW 21.20.380 authorized administrative subpoenas of customer banking records from financial institutions without notice to the customer. The court ruled this violates Article I, Section 7 of the state constitution in State v. Miles.


In 2014, Inslee imposed a moratorium on executions. He said his decision came after months of "careful review," and is an executive action that did not require legislative approval.

"Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility. And in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served," Inslee said at the time. "The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred."

Back in 2018, the Washington Supreme Court ruled the death penalty invalid because "it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

The court was unanimous in its order that the eight people who were on death row should have their sentences converted to life in prison.

The ruling was in the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, who was convicted of raping, robbing and killing Geneine Harshfield, a 43-year-old woman, in 1996.

His lawyers said the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and that it is not applied proportionally, as the state Constitution requires.

Since 1904, 78 people have been executed in Washington - all men. The last execution the state was in 2010.

Some family members of victims have said they would still like to see the death penalty.