Washington bishops say ‘no moral justification’ for upcoming execution

Governor Chris Gregoire
Governor Chris Gregoire

.- The Catholic bishops of Washington state are asking Gov. Chris Gregoire to commute the death sentence of Darold Ray Stenson, saying there is “no moral justification” for his upcoming lethal injection.

Stenson, 55, is scheduled to be executed on December 3. He was convicted of aggravated murder for the 1993 shooting deaths of  his wife and a business partner while his three young children slept in his farmhouse nearby, the Seattle Times reports.

Archbishop of Seattle Alex Brunett, Bishop of Spokane William Skylstad, and Bishop of Yakima Carlos Sevilla wrote the governor this past Friday to ask that Stenson be spared the death penalty.

Expressing their understanding that the state is responsible to punish Stenson, they said “there remains no moral justification for imposing a sentence of death.”

"Violence begets violence both in our hearts and in our actions," they wrote, according to the Seattle Times. "By continuing the tradition of responding to killing with state-sanctioned killing, we rob ourselves of moral consistency and perpetuate that which we seek to sanction."

Instead of execution by lethal injection, they ask instead that he be punished with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The governor also received a 16 page letter from the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty which argued the death penalty is not fairly administered because others convicted of killing more people have not been put to death, KXLY reports.

Several vigils are planned before the scheduled execution.

If his appeals fail, Stenson would be the first inmate put to death in Washington state since 2001.

He has claimed he did not commit the murders. When he reported the deaths to authorities in 1993, he said that his business partner had killed his wife and then shot himself in another room.

Prosecutors argued that Stenson, who was reportedly in financial trouble, killed the two in order to collect $400,000 in life insurance.

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