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Washington Supreme Court Abolishes JLWOP

When opponents of the death penalty argue for its abolition, they routinely promise an unconditional guarantee that the people who would have been executed will never be released. For example, the ballot argument in favor of California's 2016 Proposition 62 said, "Under Prop. 62, the death penalty will be replaced with a strict life sentence. Those convicted of the worst crimes will NEVER be released."

But it's a fraud. I have long warned that if the death penalty is permanently taken off the table on Tuesday the drive to abolish life without parole (LWOP) begins on Wednesday. We have already seen this in the case of the 17-year-old murderers. When the Supreme Court banned death sentences for under-18s in 2005, it assured the American people that life without parole would remain. Within seven years that promise was forgotten, and in Miller v. Alabama the Court made it as difficult as it could to sentence murderers short of their eighteenth birthdays to life without parole, without banning that punishment altogether.

Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court, fresh from its atrocious opinion barring the death penalty, took the last step that even the Miller Court would not take, barring life without parole for under-18 murderers altogether.  The case is State v. Bassett, No. 94556-0. This time, at least, there is a dissent. The decision is 5-4.

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