Just days after a Pierce County, Washington sheriff’s deputy was killed in a gunfight with at least one of two armed home invasion robbers, a debate has been sparked about whether the newest attempt to ban the state’s death penalty could, or should, be derailed by this crime.
Deputy Daniel McCartney was fatally shot late Sunday night while pursuing the two robbers, one of whom is in custody and the other who died at the scene, having been wounded, but who died by a self-inflicted shot to the head. The suspect in custody could face the death penalty, and public reaction on social media suggests people want this guy to hang.
First, of course, he would need to be tried and convicted. And, there would have to be a death penalty. Right now, that is not a sure thing.
At a press conference Wednesday, Sheriff Paul Pastor and Detective Ed Troyer released details on the shooting. The department issued a statement explaining that McCartney’s wound was not survivable under any circumstances.
The dead suspect was wearing body armor and he had also sustained a wound that would ultimately have proven fatal. But, whether by accident or on purpose, Henry Michael Carden, 35, put a bullet through his own head.
McCartney leaves a widow and three young sons. Public emotion is running high for the severest possible punishment for the surviving suspect, Frank William Pawul. Both Carden and Pawul have criminal histories and could not legally possess firearms.
But in the Evergreen State there’s a hitch, or maybe several hitches. Liberal Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee opposes the death penalty and has instituted a moratorium while he remains in office. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, another Democrat, reportedly requested Senate Bill 6052, which would eliminate the death penalty. Ferguson is the same guy who wants to ban so-called “assault weapons” and original capacity ammunition magazines. Democrats control the Legislature, and even some Republicans reportedly support ending the death penalty.
Serial killer Ted Bundy came from Washington, although it took Florida’s death penalty to punish him for all the killings he committed.
Green River Killer Gary Ridgway is also a Washington product, but he bargained with the King County Prosecutor’s office to escape the death penalty if he confessed to all the slayings he committed.
It costs a lot of money to execute someone. There are seemingly endless appeals. In addition to the financial questions, there are moral objections.
This week’s events could produce the ultimate polarization of the death penalty debate.
And, just as Second Amendment advocates and gun prohibitionists around the nation are closely watching Washington to see whether the Legislature moves a bill to erode the state preemption gun law, capital punishment opponents and proponents will watch how lawmakers deal with the death penalty.