The electric chair continued to be solely used until 1994, when legislation was enacted giving inmates the choice of lethal injection or the electric chair, with lethal injection the default method if no choice was made. Six inmates have since opted for the Virginia electric chair; the most recent was Paul Warner Powell March 18, 2010. Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has also stated that he opposes the option of the electric chair, but he did not move to drop it as an option while in office.
Executions are carried out at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia, and death row is located at the Sussex State Prison near Waverly, Virginia. State law specifies that at least six citizens who are not employees of the Department of Corrections must be present to serve as witnesses to the execution. Since Governor George Allen signed an executive order on the matter in 1994, relatives of the homicide victim(s) in the case have the right to witness the execution. Relatives of the condemned inmate are barred from being present.
A legal precedent in the United States was created after the U.S. Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). It ruled that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Daryl Atkins had been involved in a murder and robbery. He was “mildly mentally retarded” and had an IQ of 59. The ruling did stay the executions of several people on death row. Atkins was later judged to have an IQ of over 70 and remains on death row in Virginia.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime  are constitutionally precluded from being executed.
A 2001 poll of Virginians found that 69.5% supported the use of the death penalty, with 25.2% opposed. The same poll found that if given the option of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, support for the death penalty dropped to 45.2%, with 50% supporting life without parole.
Before the 20th century, along with murder and rape, a variety of offenses could merit a death sentence — arson, burglary, horse rustling, robbery.
Under Virginia’s Criminal Code, the following offenses carry the possibility of death:
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder in the commission of abduction,
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder during a robbery or attempted robbery
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder by a person engaged in a continuing Criminal Drug Enterprise
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder in the commission of rape or attempted rape or sodomy, or attempted sodomy, or object sexual penetration
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of a person under the age of 14 by a person over the age of 21
- Contract killing
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of a law enforcement officer
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of more than one person (within a three year time frame)
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of a pregnant woman
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder by an inmate while in a correctional facility.
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder committed during an act of terrorism.
- Willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of a judge, juror, or witness
As Attorney General, Governor Bob McDonnell supported expanding the death penalty to participants in a homicide other than the “triggerman,” and to those who kill a judge or a witness.
Here is a refresher course on the Virginia death penalty, since we now have a new candidate.
Currently, executions take place in Jarrat, VA in Greenville County. Greenville Couuty is down near Emporia.
Some people on the blog to not believe in capital punishment. When I was much younger, I didn’t either. I have sinced changed my mind. How do our readers feel? Should the offense list be expanded to include more crimes against humanity or should the death penalty be restricted to fewer offenses? Should we do away with it all together?
If the Georgetown South shooter is found guilty, should he be executed? Does it matter that he is an illegal immigrant or is Paul Ebert correct in thinking it is the crime rather than the status? Should we have to get the permission of the government of El Salvador to execute one of its citizens?