Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Washington State Supreme Court

Before a convicted defendant can be sentenced to death in Washington the jury must unanimously answer "yes" to this question:

"Having in mind the crime of which the defendant has been found guilty, are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency?"

The first of the four issues that the state Supreme Court must consider in a death penalty case review is whether there was sufficient evidence to justify the jury's affirmative answer to this question.

The three other issues are:

  1. Whether the sentence is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases;
  2. Whether the sentence was brought about through passion or prejudice; and
  3. Whether the defendant was mentally retarded within the legal definition provided by state law.

If the Supreme Court rules in the defendant's favor on any of these four issues, the case is remanded to the Superior Court for either a new sentencing proceeding or for resentencing to life in prison without parole.
If the Supreme Court answers each of the questions in a manner favorable to the prosecution, the Court affirms the death sentence and remands the case to the trial court for the setting of an execution date.