Governor announces moratorium on executions

SEATTLE -- When 55-year-old Byron Scherf killed corrections officer Jayme Biendl at the Monroe Correctional Facility in January 2011, he was already a three-strike felon, serving life without the possibility of parole for crimes including multiple rapes and kidnapping.

DEATHSo once he was convicted, Biendl's family began looking forward to his execution.

"I've been waiting 837 days exactly to hear those words that he's got the death penalty and I'm going to continue to count until he's finally dead,” Jayme Biendl’s sister, Lisa Hamm, said.

That count got indefinitely longer Tuesday when Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on executions in Washington.

"There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment. There are too many flaws in the system and when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system and in accordance with state law, I have decided to impose a moratorium on executions while I'm Governor of the state of Washington,” Inslee said.

Inslee said equal justice under the law is the state's primary responsibility and the use of the death penalty here is inconsistent and unequal.

Before making the decision, Inslee said, he and his staff conducted a review and went inside the state prison in Walla Walla, where currently nine convicts sit on death row.

"We thoroughly studied the cases that condemned nine men to death. I went to the state pen at Walla Walla. I spoke to the men and women who work there. I saw death row and toured the execution chamber, where lethal injections and hangings take place,” Inslee said

But Inslee insists his decision has nothing to do with the nine people currently sentenced to die.

"I don't question their guilt or the gravity of their crimes. They get no mercy from me. This action today does not commute their sentences or issue any pardons to any offender,” Inslee said.

No punishment can bring Biendl back, but for her family -- and others -- full implementation of a sentence can be the final step to closure.

Seventy-eight people have been executed in the state of Washington since capital punishment began here in 1904.

The overwhelming majority was white and the state has never executed a woman.