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State v. Gregory - 192 Wash. 2d 1, 427 P.3d 621 (2018)

Rule:

The death penalty as administered in Washington is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner and fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates Wash. Const. art. I, § 14

Facts:

In 1996, defendant Allen Eugene Gregory raped, robbed, and murdered G.H. in her home. In 1998, Gregory was investigated for a separate rape crime based on allegations by R.S. In connection with that investigation, the Tacoma Police Department obtained a search warrant for Gregory's vehicle. In the vehicle, police located a knife that was later determined to be consistent with the murder weapon used to kill G.H. Police also obtained Gregory's blood sample during the rape investigation and used that sample to connect him to the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) found at G.H.'s crime scene. In 2001, a jury in Washington state court convicted Gregory of aggravated first degree murder. The same jury presided over the penalty phase of his trial. The jury concluded there were not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency and sentenced Gregory to death. When Gregory appealed his murder conviction and death sentence, the state supreme court consolidated its direct review of those issues with Gregory's appeal of his separate rape convictions. Ultimately, the court reversed the rape convictions, affirmed the aggravated first degree murder conviction, and reversed the death sentence. The court based its based its reversal of Gregory's death sentence on two grounds: (1)“the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing arguments in the penalty phase of the murder trial, and; (2) the rape convictions were relied upon in the penalty phase of the murder case. The court remanded the case for resentencing. On remand, the trial court impaneled a new jury to preside over a second special sentencing proceeding. Again the jury determined there were not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency and sentenced Gregory to death. Gregory appealed his sentence, raising numerous issues.

Issue:

Was Washington's death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court ruled that the death penalty violated the Wash. Const. art. I, § 14 protection against cruel punishment in that it was imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner and did not serve any legitimate penological goal. In addition, the court ruled, imposition of the death penalty in an arbitrary and racially biased manner could not be alleviated through proportionality review under Wash. Rev. Code § 10.95.130(2)(b). The court noted that based on the evidence before it and its judicial notice of implicit and overt racial bias against black defendants in the state, it was confident that the association between race and the death penalty was not attributed to random chance. Gregory's death sentence was converted to life imprisonment.

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