California case reignites Washington death penalty debate

TACOMA, Wash. – Thirty years after the murder of his mother, sister and two nephews, a California man is suing that state for not executing the killer, even though he was sentenced to death.

It has some people in Washington state wondering if they can pursue the same option.

Kermit Alexander said he trusted in the legal system for years. But, the killer is still sitting in prison decades later. Because of that, Alexander filed a lawsuit demanding California put in place an execution protocol and end the murderer's life.

Alexander won a small victory last month when a superior court judge agreed that he had standing to bring the action, so there will be a hearing on the merits of the suit.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee put a moratorium on the death penalty last year, but the California case has some Washington families looking at their options.

Jane Hungerford Trapp was found dead at the top of a stairwell in Tacoma in 1996. Cecil Davis was convicted of her murder, and another, and was sentenced to death.

Twenty years later, Davis remains in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla.

"We grew up learning that if you break the law, the law will punish you," said Kathy Obert, Hungerford-Trapp's niece. "Where is his punishment? He gets a new free home, paid for by us. This is just outrageously wrong."

Obert said her family will be following the California case closely as they work to figure out if there are any other options when it comes to getting Davis executed.

Jessie Ripley is Hungerford Trapp's daughter. She said it's been exceptionally difficult having her children grow up without a grandmother and spending most of her adult life without a mom.

"He (Davis) doesn't get to say, 'Oh I wish I could see my family,' because, guess what? His family can go visit him. I don't get any of that. My children don't get any of that," Ripley said. "I'm sitting here working. My family is sitting here working to support him in a prison. Somebody who took something from us. Now I have to support him? Where's the justice in that."

Governor Jay Inslee's office declined comment on this story, but it is expected that as long as he is in office, the moratorium on the death penalty in the state will remain in place.


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