State Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, released a statement this week demanding a 2021 change in state law be reversed, arguing the change will allow a Clark County child-murderer to go free.
“At a time when the statewide annual murder count is at an all-time high and aggravated assaults in Washington are on a five-year upward trend, a former ‘three striker’ and confessed murderer has had his mandatory life sentence replaced with something far less,” said Wilson. Wilson was referring to Friday’s resentencing of Roy Wayne Russell Jr. She represents the 17th Legislative District, where 14-year-old Chelsea Harrison lived when she was murdered by Russell in 2005.
“It’s no wonder people have lost trust in government and are so concerned about public safety. They see how the laws are being tilted in favor of criminals, with less regard for the rights of victims, in the name of being ‘progressive.’ A reboot is in order when the Legislature convenes in January,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she remembered Chelsea Harrison’s murder well, noting it led to the passage of the Chelsea Harrison Act in 2008, which was sponsored by her predecessor in the Senate. The law closed a loophole in the state’s “three strikes” law by allowing felony convictions in other states to qualify as strikes in Washington courts.
Wilson said Democrats in the Legislature created a new loophole in 2019 by removing second-degree robbery as a “most serious” offense, making the change retroactive in 2021. The change removed Russell from the list of people who qualified for a mandatory life sentence.
“Anyone who has been a legislator is familiar with the concept of ‘unintended consequences,’ but that defense doesn’t work for the pro-criminal bills that got through in 2021,” Wilson said. “Republicans accurately predicted the fallout from the law that essentially banned police pursuits, which has been especially good for car thieves. When the bill to weaken the three-strikes law came to the Senate floor, we went to great lengths to point out the flaws, and the Democrats went ahead with it anyway. That’s the same day we were told, by one of the progressive Democratic senators, how accused criminals should not be judged by their ‘worst moment.’ I don’t see today’s resentencing of Roy Russell as progress.”
Wilson ended her statement by arguing people would be shocked if they knew about efforts to go “soft on crime.” She asked her colleagues in the Legislature who supported the changes in 2019 and 2021 to explain to Chelsea Harrison’s family how the changes were equitable.
“We need laws that are fair to victims, and this law needs to be fixed,” Wilson said.