A convicted murderer on death row in Washington state was granted a reprieve on Dec. 29 by Governor Jay Inslee.
Clark Elmore was sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and murdering the 14-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, notes the Daily Mail.
Elmore confessed to killing Kristy Ohnstad by stabbing her in the head with a skewer and then beating her to death with a sledgehammer. The motive was reportedly that she threatened to report him for abusing her as a child.
Governor Inslee cited a “lack of clear deterrent value, high frequency of sentence reversal on appeal, and rising cost,” in his decision to grant the reprieve, The Bellingham Herald reports.
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Inslee had previously announced a moratorium on executions in Washington state in 2014, claiming that the punishment was being used inconsistently in different jurisdictions.
Elmore was not immediately a suspect following Ohnstead’s disappearance. In fact, he helped organize a search party to find the missing teen. However, after her body was found, he turned himself in and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
A Whatcom County jury sentenced him to death on May 3, 1996. Elmore subsequently filed a series of appeals in an attempt to have the sentence overturned, claiming his rights were violated during the trial because his attorney gave him bad advice, and that the jury was compromised by seeing him in shackles.
His execution date was set for Jan.19, 2017, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his case in October, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court’s denial of a rehearing.
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In response to Governor Inslee’s decision in the case, Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran said: "I am disappointed that after 21 years of appeals, in which the sentence of death has been upheld by the highest courts in the state and the United States, the governor has derailed the sentence."
In a statement, the governor's office clarified that Inslee's moratorium is not about individual cases. “As he stated when he announced the moratorium in 2014, the action is based on the governor's belief that the use of capital punishment across the state is inconsistent and unequally applied--sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”
It was also noted in the statement that the victim’s family preferred that Elmore spend his life in prison instead of being put to death.