- Clark Elmore never denied raping and murdering Kristy Ohnstad in 1995
- In 2014 Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a moratorium on death sentences
- Elmore is the first to run out of appeals, having been on death row since 1996
- Inslee’s office says the ban is not about individual cases such as Elmore’s
- The governor says the death penalty is being applied inconsistently over WA and it lacks deterrent value, costs too much and there are too many appeals
- Kristy’s family told the governor they would prefer Elmore spend life in prison
A man who was sentenced to death in 1995 for raping and murdering the 14-year-old daughter of his girlfriend was granted a reprieve Thursday by Washington state Governor Jay Inslee.
Clark Elmore has never contested killing Kristy Ohnstad, whom he choked unconscious, stabbed in the head with a skewer and beat to death with a sledgehammer.
But Inslee, who has already stopped all executions in the state, granted the reprieve to Elmore Thursday, citing a ‘lack of clear deterrent value, high frequency of sentence reversal on appeal, and rising cost,’ The Bellingham Herald reported.
Reprieve: Washington governor Jay Inslee (left) has given a reprieve to Clark Elmore (right), who was sentenced to death in 1996 for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl
Inslee announced a moratorium on executions in Washington state in 2014, saying that the punishment was being used inconsistently in different jurisdictions.
Elmore is the first of Washington’s death row inmates to exhaust his appeals.
Elmore, of Bellingham, killed Kristy in a van south of the city in 1995 after she threatened to report him for abusing her as a child.
After she went missing, Elmore pretended he was grieving and helped organize a search party to find her.
When her body was found, Elmore fled before reconsidering and turning himself in to authorities. Elmore pleaded guilty as charged to aggravated first-degree murder.
At the penalty phase, a Whatcom County jury found no good cause to show leniency. He was sentenced to death May 3, 1996.
Moratorium: Inslee stopped all executions in 2014. Elmore (left, in 1996) is the first to exhaust all appeals. Inslee says the ban is based on high cost, many appeals and lack of deterrent value
Elmore has filed appeal after appeal since then, in hope of having his sentence overturned.
He has never disputed his guilt, but claimed his rights were violated during the trial because his attorney gave him bad advice and the jury saw him in shackles.
In October the US Supreme Court declined to hear his case, and weeks ago the US 9th Circuit Court denied a rehearing. An execution date was set for January 19.
The announcement that Elmore would not face the death penalty after all has shocked some, including Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran
‘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,’ he said in a statement.
But the governor’s office says 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,’ the statement from the governor’s office said.
It added that Kristy’s family had said they would prefer Elmore spend life in prison.
He remains at the state prison in Walla Walla, along with eight other death row inmates.
A future governor can cancel the reprieve and allow the execution to go forward. Voters re-elected Inslee in November.