In 5-4 decision last Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court narrowly denied a petition that would have released thousands of inmates from state prisons — including some who committed serious violent crimes such as assault, rape, and murder.
One of those inmates would have been infamous serial killer Gary Ridgeway, a stunning report by PJ Media noted.
Ridgeway, also known as "the Green River Killer," was sentenced to 500 years in prison in 2003 after being convicted of murdering 49 women, many of whom were prostitutes, in the 1980s and 1990s. He later confessed to murdering upward of 80 women.
Here's more about Ridgeway from the PJ Media report:
He would take the women and girls, have sex with them, and then strangle them, watching the light go out of their eyes as he squeezed the life out of them. Sometimes he'd use a rope and sometimes he'd use his bare hands. He'd pose their bodies and sometimes come back and have sex with the corpses. His first victims were found in the Green River, giving the monster his moniker.
You'd think everyone would be in agreement that such an individual, by virtue of his actions, has forfeited his right to life within society. Yet for the legal activist group that brought the petition and for the four justices who supported it, that was not the case.
What's the background?
Columbia Legal Services filed the petition last month which sought the release of all state inmates over the age of 50, with early release dates, or with risk of serious harm or death from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions. Ridgeway is 71 years old.
Nick Straley, an attorney for the legal group, argued that thousands of inmates should be released in order to preserve their safety and to allow for social distancing within prison facilities.
According to KCPQ-TV, the petitioners were demanding "that 2/3 of the prison population be released into the community, a number which includes serial killers and capital murderers."
"We're not talking about low-level druggies and low-level property crimes," Skagit County Chief Deputy Criminal Prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula said on April 21 before the ruling. "We're talking about really bad people."
Even though the petition was denied last week, Columbia Legal Services is celebrating its fight for inmate releases in the state.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Washington state has taken action to release roughly 1,000 inmates in order to combat the spread of the virus among prison populations. Several other states across the country have taken similar actions.