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Virginia Capital Punishment News - Page 17
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  1. #161
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    The Virginia Senate passed a bill yesterday on a strong bipartisan vote of 32-7 to exempt people with severe mental illnesses from the death penalty.

    SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:

    Death penalty; severe mental illness. Provides that a defendant in a capital case who had a severe mental illness, as defined in the bill, at the time of the offense is not eligible for the death penalty. The bill establishes procedures for determining whether a defendant had a severe mental illness at the time of the offense and provides for the appointment of expert evaluators. The bill provides that when the defendant's severe mental illness is at issue, a determination will be made by the jury or by the judge in a bench trial as part of the sentencing proceeding, and the defendant bears the burden of proving his severe mental illness by a preponderance of the evidence. The bill also provides that in the event the defendant fails to provide notice that he will offer testimony by an expert witness at such sentencing proceeding, the court may either allow the Commonwealth a continuance or, where the defendant is unable to show good cause for untimely notice, bar the defendant from presenting such evidence.

    SB 116 Death penalty; severe mental illness.

    floor: 01/30/20 Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (32-Y 7-N)
    YEAS--Barker, Bell, Boysko, Cosgrove, Deeds, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Hashmi, Howell, Kiggans, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Morrissey, Newman, Peake, Petersen, Pillion, Saslaw, Spruill, Stanley, Suetterlein, Surovell, Vogel--32.

    NAYS--Chafin, Chase, McDougle, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Stuart--7.

    RULE 36--0.

    NOT VOTING--Norment--1.
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  2. #162
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Virginia Prosecutors Call Death Penalty a Failed Government Program

    By TCR Staff

    Calling capital punishment a failed government program, 21 former and current Virginia prosecutors have called for a repeal of the states death penalty.

    We do not need the death penalty to harshly punish murderers, the prosecutors said in a letter released Monday. We do not need the death penalty to honor victims and their families.

    Our Commonwealth can move beyond this failed government program and still be stronger than ever before.

    The letter from prosecutors of both parties was released as Virginia legislators were slated to debate repeal legislation this week.

    Signers of the letter included Mark Earley, a former Republican Virginia attorney general (1988-1997) who presided over 36 executions when he was in office. At least two of the letter signers were in jurisdictions where capital murder cases are pending.

    Nearly two-thirds of Virginia counties have not pursued a death sentence in over 50 years, and there has been no death sentence applied anywhere in the state in over eight years.

    That underlines what the prosecutors said was the uneven way death penalties are applied in the state and across the country.

    Numerous studies in Virginia and nationwide have shown that the death penalty most often falls on poor and minority defendants, the prosecutors said. We are thus concerned about the potential arbitrariness of any new death sentences in the Commonwealth.

    The letter also criticized the death penalty as costly and inefficient.

    Prosecutorial resources could be better directed toward assuring life imprisonment for convicted murderers, better forensic testing in criminal cases, additional support for law enforcement, and further resources for crime victims around the Commonwealth, the prosecutors said.

    https://thecrimereport.org/2020/02/0...nment-program/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #163
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Release of Former Virginia Death-Row Prisoner Delayed as Police Protest Grant of Parole

    The release of a former Virginia death-row prisoner has been delayed after police organizations demanded an inquiry into the Virginia Parole Board decision to grant parole to Vincent Lamont Martin, convicted of the 1979 murder of a Richmond police officer.

    Martin, who has been eligible for parole for 26 years, had been scheduled to be released on April 30, 2020 following a parole grant approved by a supermajority of the parole board earlier in the month. News reports indicate that his release has been postponed until May 11, 2020.

    In announcing the parole boards decision on April 14, Board Chair Adrianne L. Bennett expressed doubts about Martins conviction, saying his trial had been tainted by a dark cloud of injustice. Martins prosecutor, she said, had withheld evidence from the defense in the case and his law license was later suspended for ethical violations in other cases. Bennett said that in his more than 40 years of incarceration, Martin had grown into a trusted leader, peacemaker, mediator and mentor in the correctional community.

    Martin was convicted and sentenced to death in February 1980 for the murder of police officer Michael P. Connors during a routine traffic stop. The trial occurred less than 90 days after the murder, providing defense counsel virtually no time to prepare a defense. The Virginia Supreme Court overturned Martins conviction in October 1980 as a result of the trial courts refusal to remove for cause a juror who said she would require Martin to prove his innocence, saying the jurors views were repugnant to a sense of fairness and indicative of an ingrained and tenacious bias against one accused of crime.

    The trial court denied Martins court-appointed lawyer funding to investigate the case and expedited the retrial, which was held in December 1980. During the rushed retrial, Bennett said, the judge kept jurors until late into the night , one juror collapsed from exhaustion and another was rushed to the hospital. Martin was convicted again, but this time the jury sentenced him to life with the possibility of parole.

    According to Bennetts statement for the Parole Board, Martins conviction was based primarily upon the conflicting testimony of cooperating co-defendants who had confessed to participating in Officer Connors murder in exchange for lenient sentences that Bennett described as tantamount to a slap on the wrist. The prosecution withheld from the defense evidence of the favorable treatment the co-defendants received and presented false testimony they had not been promised anything for their testimony. They completed their sentences in the 1980s and early 1990s and were released.

    The parole grant ignited a firestorm from Virginias law enforcement community, with the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police calling it a slap in the face to every law enforcement officer in Virginia. Richmond Police Chief William Smith issued a statement saying he was personally dismayed by the parole boards action. I know that all Richmond police officers, past and present, expect that their lives and sacrifices would carry more weight and value in society than to allow this persons release.

    In a letter to Governor Ralph Northam, the chiefs association demanded that Northam issue an order preventing Martins release and [d]irect that an independent investigation be conducted into the process by which the board granted Martin parole. The letter falsely asserted that Martins death sentence had been overturned [d]ue to a technical error in instructions to the jury and erroneously asserted that it had been changed to life in prison on appeal.

    Bennett accused the police organizations of conducting a pressure campaign to stop Martins release in an environment in which facts dont matter. In an email, she wrote: The Parole Boards decision is final. There is no authority to block it . The Parole Board has fully complied with its policy. There is no space for pressure campaigns in a balanced criminal justice system. This Parole Board makes decisions impartially, not based on threats.

    A few days later, the state quietly delayed Martins release date.

    Martin is the second former death-row prisoner to have been granted parole in Virginia. Joseph M. Giarratano, who had a strong claim of innocence in his case, was granted parole in 2017.

    (source: Death Penalty Information Center)
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  4. #164
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    And it's over. The names of any company that wants to sell drugs to Virginia will now be public knowledge.

    https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/leg...201+sum+SB270S

    The bill requires the Board of Pharmacy to report annually by December 1 to the Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Education and Health and the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions on (i) the number of outsourcing facilities permitted or registered by the Board that have entered into a contract with the Department of Corrections for the compounding of drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection and (ii) the name of any such outsourcing facility that received disciplinary action for a violation of law or regulation related to compounding.


    04/11/20 Governor: Approved by Governor-Chapter 1166 (effective 7/1/20)
    Last edited by Mike; 06-02-2020 at 12:09 PM.
    Judicial Review isn't in the Constitution.

  5. #165
    Senior Member CnCP Addict Neil123's Avatar
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    Whats happening to my old state? Bob McDonnell was Governor here a true ardent conservative. Now its becoming New Jersey. This is one of the few states where conservatives came together to fight for every conservative social issue and they won. Looking at the votes on this all the Republicans voted to block this. The progressive takeover of the house last year ruined everything that Bob McDonnell worked to accomplish.
    Last edited by Neil123; 06-02-2020 at 12:50 PM.

  6. #166
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Suit seeking more execution transparency in Virginia tossed out by federal judge

    By Frank Green
    Richmond Times-Dispatch

    A federal lawsuit filed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and other media organizations aimed at allowing official and media witnesses to view Virginia’s entire execution procedures was tossed out Wednesday by a federal judge.

    In a 30-page memorandum, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne cited decisions in other states and held that the First Amendment does not require that witnesses and the media be able to observe the entire execution process.

    While there is a right of access to the adjudication process, it does not extend to the implementation of carrying out a sentence, concluded Payne. The cases he cited included one in Oklahoma and one in Arkansas.

    The news organizations sued last year, claiming that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to the entirety of executions. Secrecy surrounding executions has increased in Virginia and in other states in recent years, in part because of the increasing scarcity of the drugs needed to carry out executions by injection.

    In addition to The Times-Dispatch, the other plaintiffs are The Associated Press; The (Staunton and Waynesboro) News Leader, owned by Gannett Co.; and Guardian News and Media LLC, established by The Guardian newspaper in London. The media organizations are represented by the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic at the Yale Law School and lawyers with the Richmond law firm Christian & Barton LLP.

    The Virginia Department of Corrections, represented by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, asked Payne to dismiss the suit on several grounds.

    In its motion seeking dismissal, the attorney general argued that “the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a right of public access to criminal court proceedings. The United States Supreme Court has made clear, however, that this constitutional right of access does not extend beyond the prison door.

    The attorney general’s office added: “For well over a century, Virginia has mandated — by statute — that executions be conducted in private, on the other side of a prison door. Particularly considering that Virginia has long since closed off wholesale public access to executions, there is no First Amendment ‘right’ to witness an execution in this commonwealth. If this were true, states could be compelled to broadcast executions for public viewing, a position that has been universally rejected by every court to have considered it.”

    Charles Crain, with the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic, said: “We’re disappointed, of course, and are discussing how to proceed.”

    Department of Corrections policy allows the admission of up to six citizens and four media representatives.

    Before 2017, most of the steps in Virginia’s electrocutions had been visible to witnesses. More of the lethal injection procedure had been visible, too, although the placement of IV lines and the electrodes for the cardiac monitor on the inmate has been done behind a curtain.

    Prison policy was changed to conceal more after the Jan. 18, 2017, execution of Ricky Gray, which was delayed more than half an hour by activity conducted behind the closed curtain.

    Virginia has conducted 113 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. The toll ties it with Oklahoma for the second most in the country, behind only Texas with 568.

    https://www.richmond.com/news/virgin...078680f79.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  7. #167
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Virginia Democrats vow sweeping changes in criminal justice

    Virginia Democrats say theyre looking to make transformational change to the states criminal justice system just a few months after taking a far less ambitious approach

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Democrats say they are looking to make transformational change to the state's criminal justice system just a few months after taking a far less ambitious approach.

    The killing of George Floyd and widespread protests over police violence have prompted lawmakers and their allies to promise sweeping changes to a criminal justice system many advocates have long said doles out disparate treatment to minorities.

    I think were all tired of the incremental change that has failed us and failed our community members for so long, Portsmouth Commonwealths Sttorney Stephanie Morales said on a conference call recently organized by Senate Democrats. We want to do as much as possible as quickly as possible.

    It's a far cry from earlier this year, when criminal justice reform supporters were disappointed when many of their proposals were put off for a year or sent to a commission for study.

    Democrats controlled the Virginias state legislature for the first time in a generation and passed landmark legislation hailed by many of their allies, including environmentalists, women's rights groups, and gun-control supporters.

    But criminal justice reform supporters said lawmakers were too timid, passing some minor reforms but punting on major issues. That includes bills to end solitary confinement, abolish the death penalty and make it easier to expunge criminal records for misdemeanor and nonviolent felony convictions.

    But after Floyd's killing sparked nationwide protests including in Virginia where several Confederate monuments have been taken down lawmakers pledged to make criminal justice a key part of a special session scheduled in August. The session was initially set just to focus on state budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Lawmakers recently began to hold hearings on criminal justice proposals that have been suggested by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, the Democratic Senate Caucus and a group of liberal-leaning county prosecutors.

    Those proposals include banning choke holds, giving prosecutors unrestricted access to all reports and disciplinary records of police officers and downgrading the charge of assault on a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor in cases where the officer is not injured. Those who want to change the law say the assault charge can be misused and overused by police, sometimes when they fear they will be accused of using excessive force. The current law carries a mandatory minimum sentence of six months behind bars.

    John W. Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association, said hes worried what kind of message passing that law would send about keeping police safe. He also said he's nervous lawmakers will enact bad policy by trying to do too much too fast. A particular concern is a push to weaken immunity provisions for law enforcement officials from lawsuits.

    Im really concerned about some of these really important issues being rushed through without due process, Jones said.

    Other proposals Democrats and their allies support include requiring that most warrants are served during the daytime, and that a judge, not a magistrate, approve any no-knock or nighttime warrants, proposals that are aimed at preventing cases similar to Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police conducting a no-knock warrant at her home in Kentucky earlier this year.

    State Sen. Scott Surovell said some lawmakers wanted to go a little slower and take a little harder look at things" earlier this year, but he's hopeful the events of the last few months have brought the need for immediate reform into focus.

    "The pace was really more of an issue than the policy," Surovell said.

    House Del. Patrick Hope, who is helping lead House committee hearings on criminal justice reform, said Floyd's death convinced him and other lawmakers that "decisive" action is needed.

    The sense of urgency is growing, and we cannot ignore these issues any longer," Hope said Wednesday at a virtual committee hearing.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is focusing on increasing police accountability, in part by establishing a set of professional standards of conduct for officers that, if violated, could result in the loss of their police certification.

    Currently, police officers in Virginia can only lose their certification if they fail to complete mandatory training or are convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors. Under the proposal, they could face the loss of their certification for misconduct, including the excessive use of force.

    "Law enforcement should be treated as a profession," said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. And police if they want to be treated like professionals need to understand they can lose their license for misconduct.

    Despite the new urgency in the need for reform, lawmakers are also trying to temper expectations that all meaningful reforms will pass this special session. They said given the state's long history of racism and inequity, the work will take some time.

    This was the capital of the Confederacy, these are not problems that materialized overnight and they will not be fixed overnight," said Sen. Mamie Locke. We have our work cut out for us.

    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wire...stice-71919568
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  8. #168
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    Virginia Department of Corrections wont disclose past sources of lethal execution drugs

    A new bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly this year aimed to add transparency to the states execution process by declassifying the sources of its lethal injection drugs.

    But the Virginia Department of Corrections recently denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Mercury for the names of its suppliers over the last decade, noting that the new law doesnt apply to contracts that were already signed by the state.

    Specifically, the 2020 amendment provides that the identity of an outsourcing facility that enters into a contract is no longer confidential or exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, wrote Ryan McCord, the departments legal compliance manager, in a response letter last week. The General Assembly expressly chose the word enters, rather than entered into, or has entered into, indicating that the law does not apply to contracts executed prior to the statutory amendment.

    Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun, who introduced the bill during the 2020 session, said Monday that the departments interpretation aligned with his own intentions for the bill. The reason why is because we were worried about some legal contracting issues wed have with agreements that have been made prior to this, he added. We didnt want to cause legal problems for the commonwealth.

    Bell said that future purchases would be subject to the new discoverability law and suggested that existing contracts between VDOC and drug suppliers should be revisited in light of the legislative changes. Currently, though, its not clear how many purchasing agreements are still in effect.

    VDOC has not entered into any contracts with lethal injection drug manufacturers, suppliers, or compounders since the passage of the statutory amendments, McCord wrote. At least one compounding pharmacy ended its agreement with the state on May 5 less than a month after the new law was signed according to a letter included as part of the departments response to the Mercurys FOIA request. The letter was sent to VDOC Director Harold Clarke by the companys lawyer, McCord wrote, but the department redacted both the name of the pharmacy and the attorney.

    VDOC spokesman Greg Carter did not immediately clarify whether the department has any other outstanding contracts with drug suppliers.

    The interpretation of the law maintains the status quo of secrecy surrounding the states execution process. In 2016, VDOC redacted the identity of the compounding pharmacy that provided the department with drugs for its next two executions (the state spent $66,000 roughly 63 times the previous years price, the AP reported).

    The same year, convicted mass murderer Ricky Gray one of the last prisoners to be executed in Virginia unsuccessfully petitioned for a stay of execution, arguing that the states 3-drug protocol would chemically torture [him] to death. An independent pathologist later reported that something went wrong during Grays execution, saying the autopsy indicated an acute pulmonary edema that likely felt similar to drowning.

    Virginia, like other states, has turned to compounding pharmacies as large FDA-regulated manufacturers have made conscious efforts to prevent their products from being used for capital punishment. Smaller compounding facilities can blend and alter drugs, but generally arent subject to the same federal regulations as pharmaceutical manufacturers. Rob Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said Monday that its led to wide variability in the quality and purity of drugs from those sources.

    In 2018, Buzzfeed reported that Missouri, which spent years fighting lawsuits against its secretive execution laws, sourced its lethal injection drugs from a compounding pharmacy with a history of significant safety violations. The same was true in Texas. But Virginias current protections make it impossible to know whether the state sources its drugs from reputable sources.

    Secrecy is less about protecting the identity of the supplier from the public and more about protecting the state and the supplier from the law, Dunham said. A recent court order revealed that a small Nebraska pharmacy provided the states Department of Corrections with lethal execution drugs made by major manufacturers that opposed their use in capital punishment. One company, Fresenius Kabi, even sued to try to prevent the state from using its products, arguing that they could only have been obtained through improper or illegal means.

    Dunham, a former capital litigator who represented death row inmates in Pennsylvania, said the only real way to challenge VDOCs interpretation of the new law was in court. Its a process that multiple media outlets have pursued in an effort to bring transparency to Virginias execution process. In 2019, four news organizations filed a lawsuit alleging that the state was restricting their First Amendment right to view executions in their entirety. That case was tossed out by a federal judge in June.

    The lack of transparency comes amid renewed calls for Virginia to abolish the death penalty completely as the state grapples with its Confederate legacy and nationwide calls for criminal justice reform. Virginia is the countrys historical leader in executions and has killed 113 inmates since 1979, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment after a 12-year moratorium. The two remaining inmates on the states death row are Black men. Dunham said Virginias criminal code is marked by an overtly racist legal structure, including discriminatory application of the death penalty.

    In antebellum Virginia, different crimes were punishable by death if you were Black than if you were White, he added. According to one article in the American Bar Associations Human Rights Magazine, free African Americans (but not whites) could get the death penalty for rape, attempted rape, kidnapping a woman, and aggravated assault all provided the victim was White.

    Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham Law School and expert in lethal injections, was skeptical that Bells bill would have an impact on executions in Virginia. Some of these departments of corrections have not only gone across state lines, but theyve gotten drugs internationally, she said Monday, pointing out that Missouri officials exchanged envelopes of cash for vials of pentobarbital. So, I think it just goes underground and both departments and companies engage in this dance of drug purchases.

    Both she and Dunham said it was more likely that shifting political tides, including the states new Democratic majority, would lead Virginia to abolish the death penalty. The state held its last execution in 2017, and Dunham said courts are no longer imposing new death sentences. In February, VDOC spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said the state was missing rocuronium a muscular relaxant used in its execution protocol and would need to order more to carry out an execution.

    I think that puts Virginia on the cusp of outright abolition, Dunham said. And at this particular historical moment, after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, we may be facing a criminal and legal system reckoning in Virginia.

    (source: virginiamercury.com)
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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