Head of prosecutors’ association in the state says death penalty decision should go to voters, not lawmakers

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SEATTLE — On Thursday, a judge refused to release the man accused of killing five people at Burlington’s Cascade Mall.

A Skagit County judge said Arcan Cetin is a danger to the community, refusing to release the accused killer on his personal recognizance.

The defense also informed the court that Cetin is scheduled for a competency evaluation next week. As the high-profile case moves forward, the head prosecutor in charge, Richard Weyrich, is weighing in about the death penalty issue.

This week, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked lawmakers to introduce a bill in the Legislature to abolish the death penalty.

Weyrich has an issue with the avenue being taken by Ferguson in his attempts to do away with capital punishment. Weyrich says the state's lawmakers should not be given the power to decide.

“Better way to make an important decision such as this is to put it on the ballot,” Weyrich said.

Weyrich is the president of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and he says the vast majority of the 39 top prosecutors in the group want to give voters the choice.

“It’s not something the average voter will have access to, the information to educate themselves,” Ricci King said.

King is on the board of Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and she supports Ferguson's efforts to keep it in the hands of lawmakers.

“Death penalty cases go on and on and on,” King said.

She speaks from personal experience. In 1980, King’s 14-year-old brother was abducted, raped and dismembered by serial killer William Bonin, known as the Freeway Killer in California.

“It doesn’t get much more horrible than that, it really doesn’t,” King said.

In spite of her painful experience she is still passionately against the death penalty.

“It didn’t help my grief, it didn’t bring my brother back, it’s not justice, it’s revenge,” King said.

But Weyrich knows not all victims' family members feel that way.

“People should decide, 40 years ago they voted it in, it should really be up to  the people to vote it out or not,” Weyrich said.

Weyrich says the issue is not about his personal beliefs on the issue. He is not speaking out because he supports the death penalty or not. His only goal is to give citizens the choice.

But for opponents of the death penalty, they say the system is flawed and costing society too much.

A Seattle University report says when a prosecutor seeks the death penalty, it will cost taxpayers on average of over $1 million more than if they were going for life without parole.