We are Tipping into Repeal

by Shar Lichty

While I was working on the freedom to marry campaign I watched the nation reach a tipping point and a flood of states passing legislation following Washington successfully defending it at the ballot. I have been working on the death penalty for nearly 9 years and am witnessing the same thing occurring at a national level –we are tipping into repeal!

Recent National Victories include increased discussion and bi-partisan support for repeal, the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) considering the constitutionality of lethal injection, Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a national moratorium pending the SCOTUS ruling, Montana passing a bipartisan bill for repeal out of committee, 9 of 15 and 9 of 12 scheduled executions for Jan. and Feb. respectively have been halted, Pennsylvania has issued a moratorium, and Florida has halted all executions pending the SCOTUS ruling.

PJALS played a key role in bringing forth the voices of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation by hosting Jason Ortiz and Pat McCoy for a Spokane event and connecting them with folks in Western Washington who did the same. They spent roughly a week in Washington working with the state campaign as well to develop a Voices booklet highlighting victims’ families from Washington. This booklet was delivered to legislators and is available electronically here. Cly Evans and I went to Olympia a day early and joined with Jason and Pat for meetings with legislators prior to Lobby Day. These meetings for positive and helped advance the voice of victims’ families. Our delegation of 6 arrived later that day and we all gathered for fantastic food and conversation.

Lobby Day was a great success this year and we all left feeling hopeful. “What a difference a year makes.” “I can’t believe how different our meetings were this year.” “Even legislators who aren’t with us are listening and engaging in respectful conversations this year.” These are a few of the statements I heard more than once while I was in Olympia lobbying for legislative repeal of the death penalty.

PJALS had a delegation of 6 folks from the 3rd, 6th, and 4th legislative districts who traveled to Olympia to join with others across the state for Death Penalty Lobby Day last week. There were 61 individuals representing 18 districts participating in 26 meetings with law makers for a busy and upbeat day of lobbying. Postcards were delivered to all legislators in districts that had them. PJALS played a key role in gathering postcards in the 3rd, 6th, 4th, 7th, and 9th–we reached critical mass in some of the more conservative districts and this was the first time any were received from the 7th. Thank you to all of you who helped collect postcards and/or signed one–they really do make a difference!

We have made significant advances on the issue here in Washington with true bi-partisan support, increased conversations, and a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee before the bill cutoff date. I listened to a Republican co-sponsor of the House bill speak on the issue with the same passion I speak with and realized we are almost there. Because this is a budget year it is unlikely we will win this year but our continuation to build support will put us in a very good spot for the possibility of repeal in 2016!