Washington’s Supreme Court recently ruled the state’s use of capital punishment has been unconstitutional, converting eight death row inmates’ sentences to life in prison without chance of parole.
Two of the former death row convicts are from the Eastside, one from Kirkland and the other from Snoqualmie. Five white and three black convicts now will live out their sentences at a state penitentiary in Walla Walla.
“With this opinion from our State Supreme Court, Washington ends its four-decade long experiment with the death penalty,” said King County prosecutor, Dan Satterberg. “Our criminal justice system will be stronger without the death penalty and, instead, sentencing offenders to life without parole. The death penalty doesn’t serve the interest of the victims and their families. It is cruel to make them wait for a decision for decades which is always vulnerable for appellate reversal. By removing the death penalty, a family’s case can be resolved in three to four years and give them the certainty of death in prison.”
Conner Schierman, a former Kirkland man and Bellevue native, was sentenced to death in 2010 after murdering two woman and two children in 2006. Leonid Milkin, the surviving husband, father and brother-in-law of the victims, said “justice has been done,” after the jury’s decision in 2010.
Schierman claimed he was in an alcoholic blackout at the time of the murders and admitted to burning down the home on the 9500 block of Slater Avenue. He said he doubted anyone would believe him, given the circumstances, and prosecutors contended he was attempting to cover up the crime.
Satterberg, in 2008, called Schierman’s acts, “the worst crimes in the history of this county.” He said the day of the sentence was not about Schierman, but rather to remember the lives he took from both families.
“I understand our lives are not going to be the same ever again,” said Yelena Shidlovski, sister of the two adult victims in a 2008 interview. “I will never have my two sisters back. And although our lives will go on, I am absolutely certain they will be in our hearts forever.”
Dayva Cross, a Snoqualmie man, was sentenced to death in 2001 after pleading guilty to killing his wife and two daughters in 1999.
According to a 2001 report, Cross appeared at times not to be concentrating on the hearing, as he leaned back in his wheelchair, closing his eyes, rolling his head and squirming. He pleaded guilty to the crimes, claiming his history of depression and other mental disorders caused him to snap and lose control.
Tim Bradshaw, the senior deputy prosecutor at the time, said the disturbing case had “elements of misogyny, bigotry, child killing and mass murder,” and that Cross perhaps had decided against commenting because “there is not a lot you can say.”