Posts Tagged ‘Death penalty’

Dealing with the Death Penalty

February 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Garren Shipley, who barring intervention by Governor Tim Kain will witness the execution of Edward Bell on Thursday evening, has up one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve ever read about the death penalty. However, it’s not a simple pro or con piece; rather, it deals with the immensity of dealing with the complexity and emotion that comes with contemplating the interplay of life, death, and justice:

I’ve spent a lot of time in these Cheap Seats and other chairs watching human nature, and I’ve noticed two consistent facts: Human beings like digital results. 

Yes or no. Right or wrong. Guilty or not guilty. Winner or loser.

But we live in an analog world, where digital results are rare and unnatural. 

When does the sun rise? It all depends on how sharp your vision is and where you’re standing. In all but the rarest of cases, there’s always some sort of gray area caused either by incomplete knowledge of events or the limits of our perception.


Such is the case with Ed Bell. People naturally want death penalty cases to be digital. But they’re not, and they rarely are. 

What we do know is that Bell was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death. 

And for everyone who was not standing in that alley in October 1999, that’s probably all we ever will know.

Shipley has been writing about the Bell case ever since he first arrived in Strasburg. On Thursday, the sad saga will finally reach its conclusion. One side will feel vindicated and feel that justice has been done; the other will feel robbed of a love one and that a grave injustice has been done. 

Law enforcer, law breaker, lawmaker–its never easy. Nor should it be.

Triggerman Passes Again

February 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Local Delegate Todd Gilbert has managed to usher through (once again) a bill that would eliminate the triggerman rule. From the Washington Times:

Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Obenshain have said Virginia’s triggerman rule is unfair because it holds only one person responsible for a crime in which others are equally involved.

The other bills are needed, Republicans said, to protect different types of law enforcement officers who may be targeted by killers.

Democrats argued against expanding the death penalty at a time when many states are moving away from the practice. A report last year showed that new death sentences were at a three-decade low and that the number of people executed was the lowest in nearly 15 years.

Here’s the short story on the Triggerman Rule. The triggerman rule holds that only those who actually commit a crime can be given the ultimate sanction though others may be equally involved in ordering commission of the crime. This rule became particularly important in the case of the Beltway Sniper, where John Allen Muhammad was clearly culpable for the spree of terror in ordering Lee Boyd Malvo to pull the trigger. 

Read more…

Cooch sets the record straight on the Death Penalty

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

With the General Assembly hard at work, there isn’t much time or focus for electoral politics–except for those on the outside. One candidate that is taking advantage of his outside position is John Brownlee, former U.S. Prosecutor for the Western District of Virginia and Republican candidate for Attorney General. Brownlee is traveling the state stumping on his positions. Brownlee is claiming that, as “Virginia’s Conservative Prosecutor” he is best prepared to run the AG’s office. Additionally, he claims that Senator Cuccinelli is insufficiently supportive of the death penalty and may be reluctant to seek it in state cases. 

However, although Cuccinelli may be limited in how far he can travel from the Capitol (and  a glance at his schedule shows that he is taken advantage of every spare minute to campaign),  it hasn’t limited his ability to respond. From the Cuccinelli Compass:

So you have the information yourself, I have always been a supporter of Virginia’s death penalty law.  In the Senate, I have consistently fought against Democrats’ efforts to impose a death penalty moratorium – and I have opposed efforts to allow endless appeals in death penalty cases. 

As a State Senator, I have voted to extend the death penalty to people who murder trial witnesses, judges and law enforcement officers.  And as your Attorney General, I am committed to upholding the death penalty verdicts of our juries and will work to defend and strengthen our capital punishment law from intrusions and attempts by the left to derail it.

I also have supported and will continue to support the death penalty under the current exceptions to the “triggerman rule” for (1) terrorism (including the beltway sniper case), (2) murder for hire, and (3) criminal enterprises/gangs.  However, there have been legislative attempts to completely eliminate the triggerman rule, which I believe would be too broad an expansion.  That’s the only expansion of the death penalty that I have ever opposed, while supporting other expansions and always defending our current death penalty statute.

I am looking to a spirited race for Attorney General and think that each candidate has something to offer. However, candidates need to be careful not to distort their opponent’s distortion for political gain.

Triggerman Passes but Fails

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

For a fourth straight year, the Triggerman bill has managed to gain traction in the General Assembly, this time passing the Senate. However, it failed to garner the number of votes that will ensure an override when it is (almost certainly) vetoed by the Governor. Garren Shipley has more:

Tuesday’s vote was 24-16, three votes short of the 27 needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Obenshain said his bill fills a glaring gap in Virginia’s capital punishment laws.

“The poster child for this bill is none other than Charles Manson,” Obenshain said.

The object of the bill is to allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for those who are directly responsible for murder, even if they don’t do the actual killing.

“He did not wield the knife, but no one in the Tate-LaBianca murders had a blacker heart,” Obenshain said.

Closer to home, the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks illustrate a glaring hole in the commonwealth’s laws, he said.

If not for a recently enacted anti-terrorism statute, Virginia could not have sought the death penalty for John Allen Muhammad — the man who instructed then-juvenile Lee Boyd Malvo to shoot random people at varying locations around D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

I find it very hard to comprehend how those who oppose this bill cannot see how authorizing or ordering the pulling of the trigger warrants the ultimate sanction. Is the brutal gang leader who thrives on power just not, if not moreso, culpable than the young man who is in over his head in gang activity? Death penalty opponents often trot out the argument that crime rates do not go down with the ultimate sanction. However, if gang leaders live in fear that they can be executed for ordering executions of their own, I feel to see how this would not be an effective deterrent and, at the very least, get some of the worst elements of our society off the streets.