The state of Washington and the Asian nation of Malaysia are moving to ban the death penalty, joining 19 states and 105 countries in doing so.
UNITED NATIONS — Campaigns to abolish the death penalty notched a pair of major wins on Thursday, as Washington state and the Asian nation of Malaysia moved to end capital punishment, joining 19 other U.S. states and 105 countries in doing so.
Washington’s Supreme Court deemed the death penalty to be “invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”
That ruling came after a pair of reports commissioned by a death row inmate on death penalty in the state found not only “significant county-by-county variation in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty,” but that “black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.”
The court agreed, citing “notice of implicit and overt racial bias against black defendants” in Washington, and expressing confidence that “the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance.”
Since 2007, eight U.S. states have banned the death penalty, but in a sign of American opinions on the practice, all eight are blue states, or at least voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Overseas, the newly elected government of Malaysia — led by a prime minister who campaigned on paring back the country’s most oppressive laws — announced Thursday that the death penalty would be abolished “full stop.”
That decision will immediately spare at least 1,200 death row inmates as lawmakers set in motion a process to formally prohibit executions by hanging.
The story of one death row inmate, a 29-year-old man jailed and sentenced to death for selling cannabis oil, appears to have a profound effect in changing the country’s laws.
Over the last decade, some 16 countries have formally abolished the death penalty, and the U.N. has called on all remaining death penalty states to do so immediately.