Nine men currently await execution at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. The state Supreme Court just last month rejected a petition for release from death row inmate Jonathan Lee Gentry, sentenced for the murder of a 12-year-old girl in 1988. Gentry could have been the first execution in the state since September 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman. A federal stay had recently been lifted in Gentry's case, and a remaining state stay on his execution was expected to be lifted this month.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said he thought Inslee's move was "out of touch."
He noted that lawmakers have previously rejected opportunities to pass such measures over the years, "because the public and Legislature support keeping that tool."
Inslee's action follows a recent decision by the state Department of Corrections, which is changing its protocol to allow witnesses to executions to see the entire process, including the insertion of intravenous catheters during a lethal injection.
The new witness protocol, in its final stages of approval, includes the use of television monitors to show the inmate entering the death chamber and being strapped down, as well as the insertion of the IVs, which had both previously been blocked from public view.
Through public disclosure requests, The Associated Press had sought information about any potential changes to the execution protocols. State corrections officials spoke with the AP about the new procedures late last month.
The change is in response to a 2012 federal appeals court ruling that said all parts of an execution must be fully open to public witnesses. That ruling was sparked by a case brought by The AP and other news organizations who challenged Idaho's policy to block the insertion of IV catheters from public view, in spite of a 2002 ruling from the same court that said every aspect of an execution should be open to witnesses.">