Virginia Death Penalty News

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Judge: Va. death row procedures unconstitutional
January 10, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that Virginia cannot automatically hold prisoners convicted of capital murder on "death row," where the harsh conditions and solitary confinement amount to an unconstitutional denial of due process.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued the ruling in November on behalf of Alfredo Prieto, sentenced to death in 2010 by a Fairfax County jury for the 1988 murder of two George Washington University students.

At a hearing Friday, she rejected a request from Virginia that she temporarily delay implementation of her order. She told Virginia lawyers that inmates awaiting execution can be held in solitary confinement if there is a particular need. But she said the current policy of automatically keeping those inmates in solitary confinement on death row violates their right to due process.

Virginia argued that death row inmates are inherently different from other inmates, and must be treated differently from the general population.

The state also said that running a prison is a complicated task that does not lend itself to judicial micromanagement. Complying with Brinkema's order "would present a serious security risk," lawyers for the Virginia Office of the Attorney General wrote.

But Brinkema said that automatically imposing harsh conditions of confinement on an inmate for an indefinite period of time touches on an inmate's constitutional right to due process.

She wrote that the solitary confinement that is a way of life on death row is especially harsh. Prieto "is left alone in a small cell nearly every hour of every day," Brinkema wrote, and the isolation results in a significant hardship for prisoners on whom it is imposed.

According to court papers, a death row inmate is kept alone in his cell 24 hours a day, with the only exceptions a 10-minute break three days a week for a shower and an hour of exercise five days a week in an outdoor cell not much bigger than his indoor cell. Inmates are allowed to purchase a television set and a compact disc player for their cells, and have access to some books from the prison library.

Brinkema said that the problem is exacerbated by the extended amount of time prisoners spend on death row. A prisoner could easily spend more than a decade on death row while the appeals process plays out, and never have an opportunity to join the general population.

At Friday's hearing, Brinkema said the requirements she is imposing on Virginia put it in line with the policies used in most other states covered by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Virginia has the option of appealing Brinkema's ruling to that court.

The American Civil Liberties Union says Brinkema's ruling is the first of its kind nationally.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

Grinning Grim Reaper

Virginia gets proactive in the bull$hit debate over X drugs...

Va. House panel gives thumbs up to the electric chair

By Bill Sizemore The Virginian-Pilot January 17, 2014   

RICHMOND - "Old Sparky" may get a new lease on life in Virginia.

The electric chair hasn't been used to execute anyone for years, but a House of Delegates subcommittee put its stamp of approval on that method of capital punishment in two votes Thursday evening.

The panel rejected a bill (HB942) from Del. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax County, that sought to retire the electric chair as archaic and inhumane.

And it approved a bill (HB1052) from Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, prescribing electrocution as the method of execution if the director of the state Department of Corrections certifies that lethal injection is not available.

Virginia law allows death-row prisoners to choose electrocution or lethal injection. In recent years, most have chosen injection.

But Miller told the subcommittee that the future of lethal injection is in doubt because of a shortage of the drugs used in the process.

The Republican-controlled subcommittee approved the measure on a 4-1 party-line vote, advancing it to the full Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

Virginia Podboy, associate director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, which opposes the bill, said it would make Virginia the only state with electrocution as the default means of execution. It's one of only eight states that use the electric chair at all, she said.

Surovell said Virginia should get rid of the chair once and for all.

"This is a bill to put Old Sparky into retirement," Surovell told the panel, arguing that it is a 19th-century technology that has been consigned to the dustbin of history in most of the country.

State supreme courts in Georgia and Nebraska have ruled it cruel and unusual punishment, he said.

"Electrocution cannot do what it does without mutilating a person," Surovell said. "It causes burns. It causes organs to cook.... There are documented cases of people smoking, of blood coming out of people, of people catching on fire.

"The rest of the country is moving on. We are increasingly isolated."

The subcommittee tabled his bill on the same 4-1 vote, virtually ensuring that it will not advance any further in this legislative session.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, suggested that Surovell's measure might have been an indirect effort to push Virginia toward ending capital punishment.

Every serious death penalty state should enact this the ANTIs and murderers beg for LI back.  8)
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Grinning Grim Reaper

Electric chair bill advances in Richmond

Bill would allow forced electrocutions when lethal drugs aren't available

By Travis Fain,

5:11 p.m. EST, January 17, 2014

RICHMOND - With lethal injection drugs getting harder to come by, some lawmakers want Virginia to use the electric chair more often.

Legislation that would clear the way for that passed a House committee Friday and could head to the House floor as soon as next week.

House Bill 1052 would authorize electrocution if the head of the Virginia Department of Corrections certifies that lethal injection drugs aren't available. Those drugs are becoming scarce because companies that produce them don't want them used in executions.

Because of that, Ohio used a new drug combination this week to execute a man who raped and murdered a pregnant woman. The drugs took about 25 minutes to work, which is longer than lethal injections typically take, and he gasped and convulsed for about 10 minutes before dying, according to media reports.

In Virginia, inmates get to choose between lethal injection and electrocution. This bill, sponsored by Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, would let the Department of Corrections overturn that choice if the right drugs aren't available.

Miller, the House majority whip, said his bill is about process.  "This is no expansion of the death penalty" he said

There are related proposals in other states borne of frustration over the lack of available drugs. There's a proposal in Wyoming to use firing squads, one in Arkansas for the electric chair and one in California to use the gas chamber.  8)

Miller's bill passed the House's Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee Friday on a 12-6 vote. The vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor.

Republicans control the House, and the bill has a good chance of passing there. The Senate is divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Virginia Senate shelves electric chair bill
February 7, 2014

Legislation to make electrocution the default execution method in Virginia was blocked in the Senate on Thursday when Democrats sent it back to committee over Republican objections.

Referral to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee seems to be the end for SB607 because the panel has only one meeting scheduled before Tuesday's crossover deadline - the date by which legislation must be acted on in its chamber of origin.

The bill from Grayson County Sen. Bill Carrico would establish the electric chair as Virginia's primary means of carrying out capital punishment because of a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

Current law allows prisoners on death row to choose either electrocution or lethal injection, which is the default method.

Eight inmates are on death row, according to state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney.

She recently said the agency lacks "the drugs necessary to carry out a death sentence by means of lethal injection."

Republicans contend that failure to pass the bill would leave Virginia unable to carry out executions. They suggested during Thursday's floor debate that sending it back to committee effectively kills it.

"If you want to abolish capital punishment, go ahead and leave the code the way it is," said Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach.

"The only method we have today in Virginia is the electric chair," Wagner said.

Democrats argued that it's prudent to send SB607 to the Courts Committee before approving something that could invite a legal challenge based on the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

"There may be some constitutional problems with this," said Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, adding that he would "feel better if the attorneys take a look at this."

Republicans like Carrico insinuated that was a convenient excuse to quash it.

Recalling the loss of family members in a violent 2005 episode, Carrico asked senators to consider the living victims of horrific crime "who will be sitting and waiting" for the state to carry out death sentences.

Democratic Sens. Janet Howell of Fairfax and Louise Lucas of Portsmouth said they, too, had lost family members to murders but disagreed with Carrico's call.

"Capital punishment is not good for all victims," said Howell, recalling how the issue "splintered my family" when members were confronted with it.

Carrico's bill was sent back to committee on a 21-19 vote, with Democrats and one Republican in the majority.

That lone GOP vote came from Sen. Mark Obenshain, a pro-death-penalty Harrisonburg Republican who narrowly lost the race for attorney general last year.

Obenshain has carried bills over the years to extend the death penalty to certain conspirators in heinous crimes, but he said his research "failed to persuade me of the immediacy of the need for this on the critical shortage of drugs."
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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