Governor Vetoes Bills That Would Have Expanded the Death Penalty

March 26, 2007 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA – Governor Tim Kaine today vetoed all five recently passed bills that would have expanded the death penalty in Virginia. Cumulatively, the five bills would have allowed capital murder charges to be brought against individuals who killed a judge, a jury member or a witness. The laws also eliminated the “triggerman rule,” which restricts the death penalty to those directly involved in a murder.

“The governor’s veto shows that he lacks confidence in the way the death penalty is administered in our state,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Studies of the death penalty in Virginia in recent years have portrayed our system as lacking in essential due process safeguards and tending to rush the process. The governor most certainly took these factors into account in making his decision.”

With the vetoes, the governor released the following statement: “Virginia is already second in the nation in the number of executions we carry out. While the nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation are very serious, I do not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to protect human life or provide for public safety needs.”

Shortly after the governor announced the vetoes, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell released a statement urging legislators to vote to override the vetoes in the upcoming veto session on April 4.

“It is a shame that at a time when our society is finally questioning the fairness and effectiveness of the death penalty, Virginia’s legislators choose to move in an entirely different direction,” said Willis. “While others attempt to curtail the death penalty, Virginia’s legislators are expanding it.”

A court in Maryland effectively created a temporary moratorium on the death penalty last December, and legislators there seriously grappled with a bill to repeal the state’s capital crimes law. In North Carolina, the state Medical Board has barred active participation by physicians in executions, and a judge has ruled that no execution can be carried out without a physician present. For the moment, no executions are being carried out in North Carolina.

The bills Governor Kaine vetoed are: House Bill 2750 which increased the penalty for premeditated killing of a judge; House Bill 2347 which increased the penalty for premeditated killing of a witness; House Bill 2348 which eliminated the triggerman rule; Senate Bill 1116 which increased the penalty for premeditated killing of a judge, jurist or witness; and Senate Bill 1288 which eliminated the triggerman rule.

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