Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: May 18, 2017

Washington State Supreme Court upholds death penalty in 1997 murder case

OLYMPIA WA - Today the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for Cecil Emile Davis, 57. Davis was found guilty of aggravated murder in Pierce County Superior Court and sentenced to death for the murder of Yoshiko Couch.

Davis raped, robbed, and killed Couch in her home in 1997 and was sentenced to death. His first death sentence was set aside for error in 2004. In 2007 the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office successfully sought the death penalty again and that sentence was affirmed by the Washington State Supreme Court on direct appeal.  Today’s decision pertains to a second challenge to his death sentence.

The state’s high court rejected Davis’s arguments, including that Washington’s death penalty system unconstitutionally fails to protect defendants with intellectual disabilities from execution. Both Washington law and the United States Constitution prohibit executing anyone who is intellectually disabled. While several medical experts testified at Davis’s trial, no one testified that he was Intellectually disabled.  Davis also argued unsuccessfully that Washington’s death penalty system is unconstitutional because it does not require a jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant facing the death penalty does not have an intellectual disability. In its decision the court wrote, “We find his arguments unpersuasive and dismiss the petition.”

In addition to the murder of Yoshiko Couch, Cecil Davis was also convicted of the 1996 murder of Jane Hungerford-Trapp. 

"The death penalty in Washington State only applies to the most heinous crimes," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "Davis’ crimes shocked the conscience of our community. We hope this brings closure for the community, especially the family and friends of Yoshiko Couch."

For more information, please contact James Lynch at (253) 798-6265, jlynch@co.pierce.wa.us.

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