Victims' Families Want Curbs On Gov's Ability To Halt Death Penalty

Feb 26, 2014

Family members of murder victims gathered in Olympia Wednesday to express anguish over Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to halt the state’s death penalty.

They testified before lawmakers considering curbs on the governor’s authority to grant reprieves. They told of their daughters and sisters, a mother, an aunt all taken cruelly from them. And they expressed outrage that they should be forced to pay, as taxpayers, for the killers to live.

Among those testifying was Ed Oster, who lost his daughter to Spokane serial killer Robert Yates.

“I would like somebody to explain to me: what right does this man have to keep breathing? And I have to pay taxes to feed him. My daughter’s in the ground. She has two children and grandchildren. They’ll never, ever see her,” Oster said.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, has introduced legislation that would require the governor to gather input from the state Clemency and Pardons Board before staying a death sentence. O’Ban asked each witness in turn whether the governor had contacted him or her before announcing the moratorium. Each said no.

Sandy Mullins from the governor’s office told lawmakers that Inslee did speak to a number of victims’ family members. She added that the Clemency and Pardons Board has no authority over the governor’s ability to grant reprieves. Those put punishments temporarily on hold but don’t affect the person’s conviction.