By Mishi Faruqee, SJA Campaign Manager
Although legislation to repeal the death penalty did not move out of committee in the 2012 session, Safe and Just Alternatives (SJA) organized a highly successful lobby day, press conference, and public hearing on January 25, 2012 that helped educate legislators and the general public about the issue and built momentum towards victory in Wash- ington State.
In preparation for Lobby Day, SJA conducted workshops across the state, including Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Bellingham, Spokane and Olympia. The interactive training helped participants learn effective messaging on the death penalty as well as acquire concrete lob- bying skills through role-playing of legislative meetings. Over 60 people participated in the SJA Lobby Day, and more than 25 meetings were scheduled with legislators. Among the organizations represented were:
- Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
- League of Women Voters
- NAACP of King County
- Amnesty International
- Fellowship of Reconciliation
- Faith Action Network
- Latino Equity Initiative
- Sisters of Saint Joseph’s
- ACLU of Washington
- Reforming Capital Punishment (ReCAP), University of Washington Law School
SJA held a press conference as part of the lobby day, which was covered by ten different news outlets, including five television stations. Senator Debbie Regala, the sponsor of the death penalty repeal bill and herself a family member of a murder victim, spoke at the press conference, as did Senator Adam Kline, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Other speakers included civil rights leaders, a family member of murder victim and a human service advocate.
At the public hearing for the death penalty repeal bill, SB 6283, SJA orchestrated a great turn-out, with over 75 supporters attending the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The Committee Chair remarked that according to the sign-in sheet, only supporters of the bill were in attendance and not one person had signed in opposing SB 6283.
SJA helped organize two panels of strong witnesses in support of the bill. Mark Larranaga, an attorney and author of Washington State Bar Association study on the costs of the death penalty case, Karil Klingbeil, a sister of a murder victim, Father Mark Ryan from the Washington State Catholic Conference, Judge David Nichols, a retired Superior Court judge, Farrell Adrian, from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and Tim Ford, a prominent litigator of death penalty cases all testified. SJA also helped several other advocates prepare written testimony in support of SB 6283 including two former police chiefs, a mother of a man on death row, two other family members of murder victims, and the head of Human Life of Washington, a
pro-life advocacy group.
The success of the January event is best summed in an e-mail sent by Senator Regala, saying “I am so honored to have been a part of this effort. I do believe we helped move the ball forward in the court of public opinion.”
Since the close of the legislative session, SJA has focused on public education in key legislative districts and continues to build support to advance the repeal legislation in the 2013 session.