From Wikipedia:

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 [1] are constitutionally precluded from being executed.

Public opinion

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.

Capital offenses

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.[2]

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? 

18 Thoughts to “Capital Punishment in Virginia”

  1. Raymond Beverage

    I support the death penalty…always have. ‘Nuff said.

    If our GA wants to add clarifiers where it is an automatic death penalty, so be it.

    Ebert has the right approach – it IS the crime, not the status. If El Salvador wants to protest, let them begin now; as same for any of the other Countries.

  2. I am not sure the GA has a say in auto death penalty. I think the local commonwealth attorneys should make that determination.

    Otherwise, agreed!

  3. There is must outrage over the fact that the shooter is an illegal immigrant who was previously ordered to deport. (are we sure he wasn’t deported?) I am outraged that someone who was known to be mentally unstable was given access to Gabby Giffords and the others who were shot It is a lot easier to tell someone mentally unstable than it is to determine just by looking who is not here legally.

    The priorities baffle me. Actually, no they don’t. I guess it isn’t politically expedient to grind away at the people who are mentally unstable. By all means, let them have guns. NOT.

    Its all political.

  4. I really think status is secondary to the offense. It is very easy to get wrapped around the illegal immigrant axle here. If he is found guilty and sentenced to death, we can execute him and then decide about deporting his body.

    Jared Loughner’s mental illness was not know to the authorities, or at least that appears to be the case. More or less the same problem with Seung-Hui Cho. People are very, very reluctant to hang a “mentally ill” label on people and thus they slip through the cracks. I would not agree that “It is a lot easier to tell someone mentally unstable…” There are a lot of unstable people walking around that you wouldn’t know were any different that the rest of us.

    BTW–the whole issue of what drugs to use–baloney. There are plenty of drugs that will induce unconsciousness other than sodium thiopental–ask any antesthesiologist. It is a political game played by those against the death penalty. As a last resort, Madam Guillotine is a pretty definite and almost painless form of execution. I don’t think anyone executed in this manner has ever complained. And except for the occasionally snapping off of someone’s head, hanging, done properly, is pretty definite. The prisoner has about 1/2 a second to regret what he is done before his neck snaps and he soils himself. Of course, he won’t know it.

    1. @George, let me correct something I said. It was a lot easier to know that Cho and Jared Loughner were mentally ill. Nikki Giovanni had refused to have Cho in class any more. He was being tutored by some other poor chump. The woman later wrote a book about it. Jared had been suspended from college because he was so bizarre and behaviorally disturbed. At any rate, lots of someone’s knew about these 2 shooters.

      I am just amazed that people don’t seem to be disturbed that there are no safety nets for the mentally ill and yet they are outraged that someone illegal was running around loose. I am absolutely furious that people can be crazier than bed bugs and no one can do Jack S about it until they massacre a bunch of people. All of a sudden being crazier than squawk is a protected right. Give me a break.

      This crap that went down in GTS isn’t right either but, ….well, I won’t say it.

      Some things just speak for themselves:

  5. I support the death penalty. I remember a case about 15 years ago where a condemned man, who had committed a crime spree down the east coast, was caught and convicted in Virginia. When interviewed, he admitted that he had mistakenly committed crimes in Va because he had mistakenly believed that Va had no death penalty like the other states. He had avoided, or so he thought, all capitol punishment states. Oops.

    As for the “drug shortage,” political correctness has gone to far. Why does the execution have to be so drawn out? You hear about the convicts that are so fat on death row that they can’t find a vein and repeated attempts are being called cruel and unusual. George is right. There are many ways to take care of business, including painless ways.

    1. @Cargo, would that most of those on death row and those who have been exectured showed that kind of concern for their victims.

      People make a double mistake committing capital crimes in Prince William Co/Manassas. Our commonwealth’s attorney has a sterling record for capital convictions. I believe his record tops any prosecutor in Virginia.

  6. Moon,

    The same people that want to apprehend that “someone illegal” tend to be the same people advocating a less PC way of dealing with mental health. We wonder why Cho WAS NOT put into an institution and why Loughner’s crimes were ignored by the Sheriff’s department. I know that no one I read on the blogs (and I read A LOT of them) consider the right to be left alone a trump card over being bat-sh#t crazy and needing to be helped, even involuntarily.

    I think that I’m missing something in what you wrote.

  7. @Cargo, I didn’t see the outrage over the fact that we continue to ignore those who display characteristics of those not in touch with reality.

    I think you still want to take issue with Sheriff Dupek. We aren’t really sure what he could or could not do about some batsh!t crazy like Jared. We don’t even know what his department knew or didn’t know.

    State and federal laws have almost taken serious mental illness and given it civil rights. I remember that happening with AIDs also. Until we, as a society, figure out a balance between treating mental illness and locking up people who can harm others, we are going to have a real problem on our hands.

    For me, it is easier to spot someone batsh!t crazy than it is someone illegal. Illegal immigrants don’t wear a tattoo announcing their status.

    And you might be correct, cargo. I just didn’t hear the outrage. You saw the raft of crap I took here even addressing the issue of mental illness. And you are right about PC. It isn’t until there is a massacre by people like Cho or Jared that we even approach discussing it.

  8. Raymond Beverage

    Moon, when it comes to mental health, we have moved so far off the scale from treatment and prevention of incidents, to simply reaction modes in government anymore.

    Actually, reactive has become the norm across just about anything anymore, and more layers of red tape blocking quick reaction so we can get back to proactive.

    I am following a bill out of the Viriginia House about Veterans and mental health – not a mandate, but it will provide that local governments may establish policy and procedures where service members and veterans who are nonviolent offenders, to be able by the criminal justice service to be referred for counseling & treatment. Doesn’t specificially say PTSD or other aspect of mental health, but when you read HB1691, that is what it is addressing.

    So at least one aspect of being proactive – unfortunately, I can forsee where instead of going about it smart, a local government creates more red tape.

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  10. In most cases, I would think life in prison with no chance of parole is the way to go. Now if you asked me about war criminals, I might have a different reaction. But in general, I don’t believe in the death penalty.

    Incidentally, I think white collar criminals should also get life with no parole. I’m talking the ones involved in Enron-like schemes.

    Criminally insane people need a place to go specific to their mental states. But they, too, should never be released if they are killers or ill pedophiles. (I just read one blog where someone reported on family members of a pedophile who were trying to get the guy committed for years but couldn’t.)

    The criminal who was here illegally says something loud and clear about our immigration system, but yeah, immigration is a separate issue. Where is the outcry when some white dude goes on a killing spree? Or do we assume that white guy must have been crazy but an illegal immigrant isn’t?

    1. @Pinko, I put up a great outcry over the Tucson shootings.

      Why keep them alive? What is the benefit in doing so?

      I feel better about the Death penalty now DNA testing is available.

  11. @Moon-howler
    Well, other than my moral issue with CP, there’s the issue of how we treat mental illness. If we can put an insane person in the electric chair, we have to do away with insanity pleas–valid or not–all together. So every insane person who wigs out and commits a crime will have to serve time, or be put to death, as if that’s going to help. Being born with a malady is held against a person who has never been treated. That mentality will ensure those with mental illness will not get the right treatment, will never live up to their full potential and will never be treated equally. Science won’t bother investigating further because, what’s the point? Why not let them wander the streets and ignore them until they commit a crime? That’s what we do to our vets already, right?

    1. @Pinko, some vets wander the street. 1%? I don’t want to wait until people commit a crime. That’s how we get the Cho’s and the Jarad’s of the world. Cho had some mental health services in Fairfax Co. The crime was, federal law prevented Fairfax from notifying Tech. Now that is a crime!

  12. Oh and if we can put an insane person in the electric chair, we can also put the developmentally delayed there. See where this is going?

  13. From a blog post I did back in 2008–
    Some have PTSD, such as veterans, especially those who served in Viet Nam. About 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “…the VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999), veterans account for 23% of all homeless people in America.” Almost one quarter of the homeless are veterans, certainly a national scandal.–

    I agree that law preventing Tech not being notified of Cho’s condition is a crime. It’s in everyone’s best interest for some of this stuff NOT to be private.

  14. George S. Harris

    @Posting as Pinko
    So Pinko–tell me the difference between life in prison with no chance for parole and putting a criminal to death? I’m not smart enough to figure it out, obviously. One just takes longer than the other and allgedly it costs more to put a criminal to death, considering all the appeals. Maybe that is what needs to get fixed.

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