New Bill Could Put Death Sentences on Hold - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New Bill Could Put Death Sentences on Hold

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- Seven inmates sit on death row in Walla Walla, but after numerous high profile cases around the state, lawmakers are being forced to rethink criteria for the death penalty.

State law says the death penalty can only be used if the crime is proportionate to the punishment, prompting lawyers to ask why a serial killer like Gary Ridgway could get life in prison, but some convicted of a single murder were sentenced to death.

Some defense lawyers say it's simple politics.

"Prosecutors get elected every four years, as do judges, and in order for them to maintain their political credibility, with the electorate," said Jim Egan, a Criminal Defense Attorney in Kennewick. 

"They sometimes have to do these things."

If the bill passes, all executions in the state would be put on hold until the commission is finished.

Some in opposition to the death penalty also say punishment depends on where the crime was committed, because certain counties don't have the money to pursue death penalty cases.