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June 25, 2008
Attorney General McKenna reacts to Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions on Exxon settlement, death penalty

OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today issued the following statements on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on two cases for which his office has submitted friend of the court briefs.

In January McKenna and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler led a successful effort to recruit 32 states to join Washington and Maryland in signing a friend of the court brief in a case involving the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.  The brief argues that since 48 states allow punitive damages, federal maritime law should hold corporations accountable for recklessness occurring on the water to the same extent that state law holds them accountable for land-based misconduct.

"We are pleased the court upheld an award of punitive damages, since Exxon had argued that no punitive damages can be awarded in a maritime case under federal law, no matter how egregious the circumstances,” McKenna said.  “We are disappointed, however, that the Court did not award the full punitive damages authorized by the Court of Appeals. The reduced award is brutally disappointing for the Washington and Alaska fishermen and their families who were counting on this money to help make them whole."

In March, McKenna joined nine states in a friend of the court brief in a case regarding the 2003 death sentence for Patrick Kennedy of Louisiana, who was convicted for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The brief argues that states should have the legal flexibility to apply the death penalty in some non-homicide cases, including those involving repeat sex predators.

“I regret that the Supreme Court today issued an opinion that disagrees with our view, which we submitted to the court in March, that the death penalty is an appropriate, constitutionally sound punishment for a gruesome crime like the one committed by Patrick Kennedy. This decision is a disappointment for those of us who believe that states should retain the option of the death penalty in some cases of non-homicide rape—especially the rape of a child.”



Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

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