Virginia Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, February 04, 2008, 07:46:15 PM

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February 04, 2008, 07:46:15 PM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 05:47:24 AM by Jeff1857
Senate considers bill barring early setting of execution date

Amid the parole-abolition, law-and-order frenzy of the mid-1990s, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that had the effect of allowing execution dates to be set before appeals are considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The idea was to shorten an appeals process that frustrated not only prosecutors, but families of murder victims looking for justice and closure.

It seemed to work. Senior Assistant Attorney General Katherine Baldwin told a Senate committee that the average time between affirmation on direct appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court and execution was cut roughly in half, to 3.8 years, after the law took effect in 1995.

But now the General Assembly is considering legislation to change the law. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke, would prohibit setting an execution date until after the nation's highest court rules on any appeal on the merits of the case.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 6-5 last week to endorse the measure, which could be considered by the full Senate as early as Wednesday.

The attorney general's office opposes the legislation. Baldwin told the committee that the possibility of an execution date being set encourages death row inmates to file their appeals in a timely manner.

"This was a bill in '95 that was pro-victims and victims' families because of the horrendous delays," Baldwin told the committee.

Henry County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert L. Bushnell, who heads the Virginia Commonwealth's Attorneys Association, agreed.

"It provides closure for survivors, but more importantly closure for the people of Virginia," Bushnell said in an interview.

But supporters of Edwards' bill say the law can put too much pressure on appellate attorneys, forcing them to draft an appeal, a request for a stay and a clemency petition in a compressed time period.

"If you're a proponent of the death penalty, the last thing you should want is a perception of a rush to judgment and undermining the confidence of the public on carrying out the death sentence," former state Attorney General Anthony Troy said in an interview.

Troy also spoke in favor of Edwards' bill at the committee meeting. He noted that every other death-penalty state in the federal 4th Circuit--Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina _ allow execution dates to be set only after the Supreme Court has ruled. The other state in the 4th Circuit, West Virginia, does not impose the death penalty.

"If we're going to impose the ultimate penalty, let them have the one full review without the pressure of an execution date," Troy said.

Troy and Edwards also argued that the 1995 state law is no longer necessary because the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, passed by Congress the following year, streamlined the appellate process.

The 2 sides disagree on how much time Edwards' bill would add to the appeals process. Troy said it would be no more than an additional 60 days, but Baldwin said the delay would be "months and months."
Virginia has a good system. Hopefully this will get shot down.


House committee votes to expand death penalty

A bill to expand who could be sentenced to death under state law passed a House committee Monday.

HB933 would eliminate the so-called "triggerman rule," which says that only the actual perpetrator of a capital murder can receive the death penalty. Instead, others involved in a murder could also be sentenced to die.

The House Courts of Justice Committee approved the bill 18-4. It now goes to the full House of Delegates.
Sounds like another state is going to have a Law of Parties.


RICHMOND, Va. -- The state Senate has again passed legislation to eliminate Virginia's so-called triggerman rule, but not by a wide enough margin to override a gubernatorial veto.

In Virginia, only the person directly responsible for a killing can get the death penalty. Sen. Mark Obenshain's bill would allow capital punishment for an accomplice who had the same intent to kill, even if he didn't pull the trigger.

Nobody spoke against Obenshain's bill, which passed 24-14 on Tuesday.

The General Assembly passed the same measure last year. Gov. Tim Kaine vetoed it and the Senate came up two votes of the 27 needed to override.

Kaine spokesman Gordon Hickey said the governor will veto the bill again if it reaches his desk.
Guess it isn't going to happen in Va.


RICHMOND (AP) -- Legislation to eliminate Virginia's so-called triggerman rule was sent yesterday to Gov. Tim Kaine's desk.

The proposal to expand the death penalty to include certain murder accomplices cleared the House of Delegates on a 78-17 vote. The Senate previously passed the measure 24-14 -- three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

In Virginia, only the person directly responsible for a killing can get the death penalty. Sen. Mark D. Obenshain's bill would allow capital punishment for any accomplice who shares the triggerman's intent to kill.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, vetoed the same legislation last year and has not changed his view, spokesman Gordon Hickey has said. Mr. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, said Mr. Kaine has pledged to discuss the issue with him before acting on the legislation.

"I know the governor has concerns about expanding the death penalty, but I take him at his word when he says he will sit down and talk about it," Mr. Obenshain told reporters after the House vote.

Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and a half-dozen sheriffs and prosecutors later joined Mr. Obenshain and Delegate C. Todd Gilbert at a press conference where they urged Mr. Kaine to sign the bill.

"Equal wrongdoing and equal culpability deserves equal punishment," Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, said. He said that "fundamental principle" applies in every area of law except capital murder.

Proponents of the bill cited several cases in which a killer was spared the death penalty because of the triggerman rule. For example, Brandon Hedrick was executed in July 2006 for the rape and murder of a woman in Appomattox County while an accomplice only got life in prison.

Virginia is one of only three states that have the death penalty but do not apply it to accomplices who share the triggerman's intent to kill, said Mr. Gilbert, Shenandoah Republican who called the rule "outdated, illogical and unfair."

Virginia law does, however, carve out three exceptions to the triggerman rule: murder for hire, murder ordered by someone in an illegal drug enterprise, and murder by someone engaged in terrorism.

Also, a 2006 analysis by the Virginia State Crime Commission found that the state Supreme Court has repeatedly held that if there is more than one "immediate perpetrator" of a capital murder, all of them may receive the death penalty. The court cited that theory and the terrorism exception in upholding the death sentence of D.C.-area sniper John Allen Muhammad.

Mr. Gilbert, sponsor of the House version of the bill, said that but for the "creative efforts of prosecutors," Muhammad might have avoided the death penalty. Lee Boyd Malvo was the triggerman in the October 2002 shooting spree that left 10 people dead.

Pittsylvania County Commonwealth's Attorney David N. Grimes said "immediate perpetrator" usually only applies to an accomplice who physically participates in a killing -- for example, pouring gasoline on someone who is subsequently set afire by another person.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, Virginia has executed 98 persons, second only to Texas, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Governor Timothy Kaine has vetoed legislation that would expand the death penalty to include people who plan a murder, not just those who commit them.

Kaine's veto of House and Senate bills now sends both back to the legislature for override votes before Saturday's scheduled adjournment.

In the Democrat-controlled Senate, the legislation passed with 24 votes, but that's three votes short of the two-thirds margin necessary to override Kaine.

In the House, however, it passed with at least 12 more votes than the 67 necessary to pass the bill over the governor's veto.

The expansion of the so-called triggerman rule is an effort to expose close accomplices in murder cases to capital punishment.

I knew he would veto it. Hope the voters remember it next time.


Lawrence T. Vaughan says Kevin Green should die. And a Virginia jury agreed.

Green fatally shot Mr. Vaughan's wife in 1998 as he robbed the couple's convenience store.

But Green, 30, and three other killers scheduled for execution were granted a reprieve this month by Gov. Tim Kaine until the Supreme Court decides whether lethal injection is "cruel and unusual punishment" -- and therefore unconstitutional.

Politicians and victims' families say Mr. Kaine acted prematurely because the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the condemned prisoners' final appeals and because Virginia still authorizes the use of the electric chair.

"It is a backdoor way to at least temporarily get rid of the death penalty," said Sen. Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli, Fairfax Republican. "When you do stuff like this, you really knock off the effect of the death penalty. He is undercutting the value of it to Virginia."

Mr. Vaughan, who was shot twice during the robbery that netted $9,000 from the Brunswick County store he and his wife ran for 18 years, said Green should die as scheduled and not wait for the high court's decision, which is expected in July.

"My wife was already dead and he turned around and shot her two more times," Mr. Vaughan, 68, said. "I think if you kill someone else you should get the same punishment."

Mr. Kaine defended his decision to impose the temporary moratorium against critics who say it was unnecessary because the state offers those on death row a choice between lethal injection and electrocution.

"None of the upcoming people has chosen the electric chair, and the law says the default method is lethal injection," Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said through his spokesman, Gordon Hickey.

However, Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry M. Traylor said the prisoner is not obligated to choose a method until 15 days from the execution date. Three of the prisoners had not reached the 15-day window, and the fourth declined to choose.

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell said that was why he objected to the governor's moratorium.

"Other death-row inmates affected by the governor's actions have yet to select a method of execution as Virginia law provides, and only lethal injection cases are at issue in the [Supreme Court] case," said Mr. McDonnell, a Republican widely expected to run for governor next year.

Mr. Kaine, who opposes the death penalty, pledged to uphold the law during his campaign for governor. He has carried out four executions since taking office in January 2006. Before the blanket moratorium, Mr. Kaine blocked two executions.

His Republican rival for governor in 2005 ran television ads attacking Mr. Kaine's death penalty stance, claiming he would oppose the practice even for Adolf Hitler. Another ad featured the widow of Winchester police Sgt. Rick Timbrook, who was fatally shot by Edward Nathaniel Bell nine years ago.

"I don't trust Tim Kaine to uphold that law," said Kelly Timbrook.

Bell, 42, was among those who received a reprieve on April 8.

Bell fatally shot Sgt. Timbrook, 32, in the forehead during a foot chase. The police officer's son was born two months later.

"I cannot feel sorry for Edward Bell whatsoever, and I am fighting for his death," said Sgt. Timbrook's father, Richard Timbrook. "Maybe this sounds cold, but there are some people who do not deserve to live."

Mr. Cuccinelli, a Fairfax Republican who is running for state attorney general, also said it was customary for a governor to wait until all legal appeals are exhausted before issuing a stay of execution.

"If the governor is using the Supreme Court as an excuse to delay the execution, that is a straw-man argument, given the Supreme Court's ability to rule on the execution of Bell even if Kaine took no action," he said.

The Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution in every case since the justices agreed in September to hear the lethal injection case. The court in October issued a stay on the execution of Christopher Scott Emmett, convicted of robbing and killing his co-worker, John Langley, in Danville, Va., in 2001.

Delegate Adam P. Ebbin said the governor was showing "respect for the Supreme Court's review process."

"It seems like a prudent and reasonable step to postpone these particular executions until we know the Supreme Court has acted," said Mr. Ebbin, Arlington Democrat. "The governor has indicated time and again he will enforce the death penalty when it has been sentenced, but in these cases there is some doubt into what is the permissible method of execution."

Virginia has executed 98 criminals since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 -- more than any state but Texas, which has executed 405. Since 1995, when Virginia began offering lethal injection as a humane alternative to electrocution, 70 inmates have been executed using the three drug "cocktail" the Supreme Court is considering.

In January, the high court heard a case brought by two Kentucky death row inmates who argued that the toxic cocktail used by 36 states causes unnecessary pain and suffering.


April 16, 2008, 05:16:44 PM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 05:48:37 AM by Jeff1857
RICHMOND, April 16 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said Wednesday that Virginia can proceed with executions now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of lethal injection in Kentucky.

But Kaine, who suspended the practice earlier this month while he awaited the court decision, said he will continue to decide on a case by case basis whether to grant stays in clemency requests.

"In light of the Supreme Court ruling, executions will move forward according to the procedures that were in place prior to the court's agreement to hear Baze last September," said Kaine spokesman Gordon Hickey, referring to the Baze v. Rees case.

Executions in Virginia have been on hold since the Supreme Court decided to take up the Baze v. Rees case, which centered on challenges from two death row inmates in Kentucky who said that their Eighth Amendment rights would be violated if they were to die by lethal injection of the three-drug combination used by Kentucky and other states.

In October, the Supreme Court stopped the execution of Virginia inmate Christopher Scott Emmett, who beat a co-worker to death with a brass lamp in Danville in 2001, until it ruled on the case.

In response to the court's action on that and other planned executions in other states, Kaine postponed Emmett's scheduled execution.

Kaine also announced April 1 that all future executions would be put on hold until the court ruled on Baze v. Rees.

The court's decision clears the way for several executions in Virginia, unless Kaine decides to intervene based on clemency requests.

Kevin Green, who killed a Southern Virginia convenience store owner in 1998, is scheduled to be executed May 27, according to the state attorney general's office.

Kaine, who personally opposes the death penalty, has allowed four executions to proceed but has delayed several others since he took office in 2006.

Virginia trails only Texas in the number of executions carried out since 1976.
He's being quick to try to save face after he got crucified in the media.


State Asks Supreme Court to Permit Execution----Defense Objects to Lethal Drug Protocol

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider next month whether to allow Virginia to set an execution date for a death row inmate who contends that the commonwealth's lethal injection procedures do not meet the standards that the court recently found constitutional.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) has asked the court to vacate the stay of execution it granted Christopher Scott Emmett last fall, after the court agreed to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky's lethal injection procedure.

The court ruled 7 to 2 in favor of Kentucky, and Virginia contends that because its procedures are "virtually identical" to those the court found constitutional, Emmett's stay should be vacated and the state should be allowed to set an execution date.

But Emmett's attorneys told the court Monday that the stay should remain in place while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond reviews the case. The appeals court has scheduled a hearing May 14 on Emmett's case and has asked both sides for briefs that take into consideration the Supreme Court's April 16 ruling in Baze v. Rees.

"The state's motion is an ill-founded attempt to disrupt the orderly consideration of Emmett's issues," said a brief filed with the Supreme Court by the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center.

The federal government and almost all states use the same three-drug combination to execute the condemned. The Supreme Court ruled that proper administration of the protocol does not carry a risk of substantial pain so great as to violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The court left the door slightly ajar for inmates to challenge state procedures, but it added that "a state with a lethal injection protocol substantially similar to the protocol we uphold today would not create a risk" that would be adequate to justify a stay of execution.

Emmett's attorneys called Virginia's procedure "unique and uniquely dangerous." Like others, it administers sodium thiopental, which induces unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles; and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.

The latter 2 drugs can cause excruciating pain if the 1st drug is not administered properly. Emmett's attorneys say that when Virginia inmates take longer to die than expected, 2nd doses of the latter drugs are administered, but not thiopental.

A federal District Court upheld the use of lethal injection for Emmett, who bludgeoned a co-worker to death in Danville in 2001.

The legal process in Virginia is likely to be repeated across the country as states move to restart the execution process that was halted when the court accepted the Baze case. The nation's last execution occurred in September. A Georgia inmate is scheduled to be executed May 6.


Va. court looking at procedures for man on death row----Outcome could also have impact on convicted Bell

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 earlier this month that Kentucky's lethal injection protocols are constitutional. Now a court in Richmond will train the same legal microscope on Virginia's procedures in a case that will have significant ramifications for convicted killer Edward N. Bell.

Christopher Scott Emmett, under a death sentence for the murder of a Danville co-worker in 2001, has challenged the constitutionality of Virginia's method of lethal injection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear oral arguments on the case May 14.

Bell, the Jamaican national convicted in 2001 of the 1999 murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, is awaiting action by the U.S. Supreme Court on what is likely his last appeal.

But a favorable ruling in Emmett's case could breathe new life into his efforts to stay out of the death chamber, as a direct challenge to Virginia's protocols would be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Under a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, inmates have the right to challenge lethal injection procedures under the same federal civil rights provisions that govern conditions in prisons.

Emmett filed his challenge to Virginia's protocol before the high court decided to take the case of Baze v. Rees. Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond agreed to hear the case, but declined to put Emmett's execution on hold.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, though, and put off the execution until the Fourth Circuit came to a conclusion one way or the other on Virginia's execution methods.

In the meantime, the high court ruled that Kentucky's lethal injection protocols are constitutional. But Virginia's procedures are different enough to warrant change, Emmett's attorneys argued in court filings this week.

Comparing the 2 directly is difficult, if not impossible, for the public.

Virginia has long held its execution protocols as secret and exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act -- an opinion shared by the state's Freedom of Information Advisory Council in 2003.

2 of the drugs used in lethal injection -- the paralytic agent, pancuronium bromide, and the drug that stops the heart, potassium chloride -- would create excruciating pain as they worked their way through the veins of the condemned, according to numerous court affidavits.

If the first dose of the two lethal drugs doesn't kill the inmate, an additional dose is given without further anesthetic, Emmett's lawyers wrote in court filings.

That creates a major potential for suffering.

"When the potassium fails to kill within the expected time, its suggests that the full dose did not reach the inmate, which in turn suggests what the inmate also did not receive the full dose of [the anesthetic sodium] thiopental," they wrote.

That means the condemned could feel the full effects of the suffocating paralytic agent and the burning of the potassium chloride.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson disagreed, though, in a ruling last year.

The risk of an inmate not getting the full dose of anesthetic is exceedingly low, due in large part to the medical training of the team that insert the IV lines.

"Currently, the lead member of the IV team, who will participate in [Emmett's] execution, has twenty years of hands-on medically related experience, which includes mixing medication and inserting and maintaining IV lines," Hudson wrote.

"Additionally the [state] has retained a physician to train new members of the IV team," he wrote, and all new IV team members get 20 hours of training before they can participate in an execution.

A physician also watches executions on occasion to assess what training may be helpful to the team.

"The physician has not observed any members of the IV team making a mistake during an execution and has noted that they are proficient in performing their tasks," he added.

The U.S. Supreme Court will discuss lifting Emmett's stay of execution at a conference on May 12. They could also decide to hear or deny Bell's appeal at any time.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Members of the Virginia State Crime Commission will decide by December whether to support legislation expanding capital punishment to those who kill a firefighter or emergency responder while performing their duties.

Since 1976, Virginia has expanded its capital murder laws to include 15 circumstances that could result in the death penalty, including murder in the commission of a rape, robbery or various other crimes. Killing an on-duty law enforcement officer has been a death penalty qualifier since 1977.

Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of inmates put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Opponents argued at the commission's meeting Tuesday that Virginia should be finding ways to eliminate the death penalty rather than expand it.


Go get `em Virginia... :)


Here's a listing I've compiled of where I believe Virginia's state and federal DR inmates are in the appeals process in order of closeness to execution. Any corrections would be appreciated.

State inmates
Edward Bell: execution date 2-19-09
Paul Powell: 4th Circuit oral argument 12-05-08
Justin Wolfe: 4th Circuit oral argument 12-05-08
John Allen Muhammad: lost federal habeas petition 10-06-08
Jerry Jackson: federal habeas petition filed 9-27-06
Darick Walker: federal habeas petition filed 1-16-07
Teresa Lewis: federal habeas petition filed 6-8-07
Leon Winston: federal habeas petition filed 7-27-07
Larry Elliot: federal habeas petition filed 5-2-08
William Burns: state habeas loss Circuit Court 10-20-08
Anthony Juniper: state habeas VA response received 2-28-07
Ricky Javon Gray: state habeas VA response received 4-21-08
Ivan Teleguz: state habeas VA response received 5-21-08
Thomas Porter: direct appeal denied VA S. Ct. 9-19-08
Alfredo Prieto: sentenced to death 3-4-08, awaiting decision on direct appeal
William Morva: sentenced to death 3-14-08, awaiting decision on direct appeal
William Morrisette: retrial 6-1-09

Federal inmates
Cory Johnson: all normal appeals exhausted, awaiting resolution of lethal-injection litigation in DC Federal District Court
James Roane: all normal appeals exhausted, awaiting resolution of lethal-injection litigation in DC Federal District Court
Richard Tipton: all normal appeals exhausted, awaiting resolution of lethal-injection litigation in DC Federal District Court
Aquilia Barnette: habeas petition filed 8-07
Carlos Caro: sentenced to death 3-30-07, awaiting decision on direct appeal
Thomas Hager: sentenced to death 11-1-07, awaiting decision on direct appeal
Richard Stitt: 4th Circuit ruled 12-26-08 that he gets a penalty-phase retrial


Awesome information Moh!!! Welcome to the site!!!

Heidi Salazar I know you?? That post was BAD ASS!!! Where did you find all that info?? I have had a hard time finding any info in VA!! The fed info is wonderful!!


January 07, 2009, 04:05:26 PM Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 04:11:40 PM by Moh
You're quite welcome and I'm really glad to be here. Unlike some other pro-death sites, this site's chock full of up-to-date facts, has clear, evenly-enforced board rules and appears to be moron-free (both of the anti and pro persuasion). I've compiled this info from various sites: the Virginia Supreme Court site (which also has a link to Virginia Circuit Court data), CapDefNet,, the Fourth Circuit site and various newspapers. I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of compiling a list if one had been available somewhere in cyberspace. Unfortunately, Virginia's Attorney General, unlike Washington State's and Indiana's, doesn't have one (at least one that's offered to the general public). So, my list might actually be one of a kind. Any corrections and/or additions would be most highly appreciated.


wow thank you , great work !
Justice is not about bringing back the dead. It is not about revenge either. Justice is about enforcing consequences for one's own actions to endorse personal responsibility. We cannot expect anyone to take responsibility for their own actions if these consequences are not enforced in full.

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