Wise decision on death penalty | Editorial
February 28, 2012 · Updated 2:12 PM
Island County Prosecutor Greg Bank unearthed some eye-opening statistics in announcing he will not seek the death penalty for Joshua Lambert, the Oak Harbor resident suspected of killing his two grandfathers, presumably because they would not give him guns.
Lambert is representing himself in court on an insanity defense. However it turns out, Banks concluded that the defendant’s mental state would be a mitigating factor when it came time for a jury to consider the death penalty.
Furthermore, Banks researched the death penalty in this state since 1981. Out of nearly 300 “aggravated murder” cases, juries decided death would be the proper punishment only 32 times. Seventeen of those sentences were reversed by higher courts, eight of the guilty remain on death row, one killed himself, and only six were actually executed.
What Banks didn’t figure was the extremely high legal costs of pursuing a death penalty case to the end. With the public paying for the prosecution as well as the defense during the various layers of appeals, sometimes going up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the total cost no doubt undermines the theory that executing murderers instead of keeping them in prison for life will save money.
Some crimes are so egregious that they seem to call out for the death penalty. Lambert’s is one of those, but Banks set emotion aside and rationally concluded that the chances of ever seeing him executed are slim to none. Families were also consulted, and in this case there was no demand for the death penalty. Banks’ decision to try to keep Lambert in prison for a minimum of 70 years seems defensible and correct.
However, the death penalty should be kept on the books, particularly for cop killers and serial killers who carefully plan out their cruel deeds ahead of time. One of the few men on Washington’s death row today is Oak Harbor’s own Robert Yates, a 1970 OHHS graduate who was convicted of killing 15 people, mostly women. He was scheduled to be put to death Sept. 15, 2008, but his execution was stayed by the state Supreme Court. He remains alive today, but eventually he should get what he deserves. Sometimes the death penalty is worth the cost.