State Senate Hears From Executioner, Rejects Death Penalty Expansion

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wow, this is dramatic.
In a surprise, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 9-6 this morning to defeat SB 7 sponsored by Senator Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) which would have greatly expanded Virginia's death penalty by eliminating the "triggerman" rule.


The strangest witness was a former state executioner who served in that role for 12 years and oversaw 62 executions, including both electrocution and lethal injection. He spoke against the bill and mentioned his own personal demons in overseeing so many deaths. I've never met or heard from the actual executioner before.

It was a surreal moment.

I voted "no" on the bill. I do believe that the death penalty is an appropriate option for juries in some extraordinary murder cases. However, there must be a strict standard, and SB 7 would have destroyed that.
Thanks to Chap Petersen and the others who voted against expanding the death penalty in Virginia. I agree with Chap, who writes in the comments section of his blog, "As a substantive matter, our death penalty today is very, very broad. I am unlikely to vote to expand it any further without an extremely compelling reason." Exactly right.