Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1976 NO. 15 >

(1) Recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court holding mandatory death penalty laws to be unconstitutional have rendered RCW 9A.32.046, enacted pursuant to Initiative No. 316, constitutionally unenforceable; however, in line with other supreme court decisions involving death penalty laws a constitutionally valid death penalty statute may still be enacted in accordance with guidelines set forth in those decisions.    (2) Because RCW 9A.32.046 was enacted as a part of Initiative No. 316 at the 1975 state general election, that statute may not be repealed by the legislature for a period of two years following its enactment and it may only be amended during such period by a two-thirds majority vote of the members of both houses of the legislature; however, this existing state death penalty statute may be amended or repealed at any time pursuant to an initiative or referendum measure approved by the voters.   (3) It is possible that legislation establishing a new, constitutionally valid, death penalty for the state of Washington could be enacted by the legislature by a simple majority vote, even during the immediate two-year period following the passage of Initiative No. 316, if the new law is not drafted as either an amendment or repeal of RCW 9A.32.046.