OLYMPIA – Below is the testimony Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg delivered Feb. 20 before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of SB 6052, which would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state:
“Representative Jinkins and members of the Committee, my name is Daniel Mueggenborg. I am the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle. I very much appreciate the opportunity to be back in Olympia and to speak with you today. The Catholic Church in the state of Washington includes 1.3 million Catholics. I am here this morning on their behalf, as I was a month ago in the state senate, to speak in support of SB 6052 which would abolish the death penalty in our state.
“Catholics believe that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death because we are made in God’s image and likeness. Just a few months ago, Pope Francis condemned the death penalty as ‘an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.’ St. John Paul II also opposed the death penalty, calling it ‘both cruel and unnecessary.’
“The Catholic bishops of this state have long been on record as opposing capital punishment. At the same time, we have also made very clear our deep concern for the families and loved ones of victims of violent crimes and our commitment to helping them heal. We believe all citizens have the right to be protected from those who commit the crime of murder.
“The act of murder cries out for an appropriate punishment, but the death penalty merely adds violence to violence, and perpetuates the illusion that the taking of one human life for another can somehow balance the scales of justice. In addressing the appropriate level of punishment, we acknowledge that, in some cases, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is an appropriate sentence.
“Our country’s legal system is far from perfect when it comes to imposing the death penalty. There can be significant racial bias, and innocent people do end up on death row. Since 1973, 161 people sentenced to death have been exonerated.
“In addition, there is the simple economic reality that capital punishment costs taxpayers far more than incarcerating convicted murderers for life. A 2015 study found that capital cases cost an average in excess of $1 million more than those aggravated murder cases for which the death penalty is not sought.
“Lastly, we want to acknowledge that this is a tough and emotional issue. Nonetheless, we urge you to avoid diverting this decision back to the voters via referendum. The public has entrusted you to make critical decisions that can lead to a more just society. This is an important such opportunity for the Legislature.
“Thank you for this time and, along with my brother bishops in Washington state, I urge you to support passage of SB 6052 and repeal the death penalty in our state.”
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