Eight individuals on death row in Washington state will have their sentences converted to life in prison after the state Supreme Court struck down the death penalty Thursday morning.
The death penalty has been imposed in an "arbitrary and racially biased manner," the justices concluded, and violates the state constitution—siding with appellant Allen Eugene Gregory, a black man convicted of raping, robbing, and killing a woman in 1996.
"The use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant," the justices wrote. "The death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal."
State officials who have been trying to repeal the death penalty for years praised the decision. Attorney general Bob Ferguson said he intends to propose legislation in the upcoming session, to replace with a sentence of life in prison without parole.
"The court recognized that Washington state’s death penalty is broken," Ferguson said in a press release. "We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all."
With a Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate, last year was the closest legislators had gotten to abolishing capital punishment. The bill passed in the state Senate but died in the House.