A Case Commentary on State of Washington v. Allen Eugene Gregory

Ms. Akanksha Badika and Ms. Prachi Trivedi
NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai
Maharashtra, India

Volume I, Issue V, 2018

Washington D.C. has become the third US state to declare death penalty as unconstitutional. Death sentences have been frowned upon and debated over on the basis of its constitutionality as it fails to create the deterrence for which it was legally established. Justice Fairhurst, the Chief Justice of Washington Supreme Court in the case of State of Washington v. Allen Eugene Gregory, has declared death sentences to be unconstitutional on grounds of it being imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner, reducing all death sentences on aggravated first degree murders to life imprisonment. The paper aims to comment upon the aforesaid case, canvassing the historical perspective on death sentences in US in general and Washington in particular, the facts pertaining to the case, the issues raised relating to the constitutionality of death sentences in Washington, the proportionality review and its severability and revisiting of Gregory’s guilt phase arguments. Subsequently, the judgement pronounces death penalty to be in contravention of Article 1, Section 14 of the State Constitution which deals with excessive bails, fines and cruelty in punishments, proportionality review has been declared to be a constitutional mandate and cannot be severed and the law of the case doctrine bars review on revisiting Gregory’s arguments. Further, the authors have analysed the judgement to opine that though the imposition was arbitrary and racially biased, but striking down death penalty will definitely reduce the deterring factor attached with penalties for grave offences like murder. Additionally, the evidentiary value and reliability of statistical reports had also made this case a turning point in life of judicial history, as the defendant has relied on Beckett & Evans analysis to substantiate his arguments. Finally, the paper juxtaposes the implications this judgement is likely to have after its pronouncement on the capital state of USA


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