Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Death penalty moratorium measure dies in Va. committee ^

Posted on 01/16/2006 1:20:10 PM PST by lunarbicep

RICHMOND, Va. - A Virginia state Senate committee on Monday killed a proposed moratorium on Virginia executions until scientific testing on evidence is so standard and universally applied that there is no chance the innocent are executed.

Sen. Henry Marsh's bill died on a voice vote in the Courts of Justice Committee despite testimony from a man who spent five years on North Carolina's death row until new DNA tests cleared him in 2004.

Allen Gell, 31, of Lewiston, N.C., was convicted of murder and armed robbery and sentenced in 1998 to death before new tests on DNA evidence resulted in his acquittal in a new trial.

He said prosecutorial misconduct, poor pay for defense lawyers to represent indigent defendants and racial disparities in imposing capital punishment are reasons Virginia should freeze executions.

"The largest and most compelling reason, of course, is standing before you of innocence on death row," Gell said.

Gell said there is enormous public and political pressure on prosecutors to win convictions, and some of them cut corners, he said.

"It's more important to win than to seek the truth, and a lot of times, it's more convenient to win than to seek the truth," Gell said.

The sister of James Edward Reid, whose September 2004 execution for stabbing an 87-year-old woman 22 times in 1996 is Virginia's most recent, said what happened to her brother was "heinous" and "hideous."

"We're talking about guilt or innocence, but what we need to talk about is a fair process, and it's not happening," said Ida Reid of Charlottesville.

Marsh, D-Richmond, noted that Virginia would have executed Earl Washington in 1992 had then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder not commuted his death sentence to life in prison. DNA tests not available earlier later cleared him of the 1982 rape and murder for which he was sentenced to die, and he received a full pardon in 2000 from then-Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Marsh, a lawyer and longtime death penalty foe, said he briefly questioned his opposition to capital punishment himself several years ago after his brother was gunned down.

"If you're for the death penalty, the worst thing that could happen is for an innocent person to be executed," Marsh said.

No witnesses spoke against Marsh's bill, but Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, said that even though she opposes the death penalty, she sees no justification now for a moratorium.

"The question is should we have a death penalty," Howell said.

The committee vote came four days after tests on DNA extracted from sperm confirmed the guilt of Roger Keith Coleman, who was executed in 1992 insisting he was innocent of the rape and murder for which he was condemned.

News organizations and anti-death penalty advocates for years had urged the DNA be retested using technology not available in the early 90s. Former Gov. Mark R. Warner last year ordered the new tests conducted. Had the tests cleared Coleman, it would have been the first time in the United States that scientific testing proved an innocent person had been put to death.

Jack Payden-Travers, the executive director of Virginians for Alternatives for the Death Penalty, said he believed the committee vote would have been much different had Coleman's new DNA tests exonerated him posthumously.

"Coleman's case had become so notorious that even Virginia ... would have had to react to it positively if Coleman had been innocent," Payden-Travers said.

Virginia has executed 94 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. That ranks second only to Texas, which has executed 355 inmates in the same span.

Gell has sued five state prosecutors and investigators in federal court, charging that they violated his civil rights. Gell claims the violations occurred when those named in the suit withheld helpful evidence from him at his 1998 trial.

"Gell's ordeal was not an accident," the complaint says. "It resulted from the concerted effort of veteran law enforcement officers of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation ... as well as prosecutors from the elite Special Prosecutions Unit of the North Carolina Attorney General's office."

Gell spent nine years behind bars, half on death row, for the 1995 murder of Allen Ray Jenkins, a retired truck driver in the small town of Aulander in Bertie County. He won a new trial in December 2002 that allowed the withheld evidence: statements of people who saw Jenkins alive after Gell had been jailed, and a taped conversation of the star witness saying she had to "make up a story" for police.

A Bertie County jury quickly acquitted Gell at a trial in February 2004.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government; Miscellaneous; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: deathpenalty; moratorium; vageneralassembly

1 posted on 01/16/2006 1:20:12 PM PST by lunarbicep
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep

death penalty dies . . .that's funny.

2 posted on 01/16/2006 1:27:01 PM PST by teenyelliott (Soylent green should be made outta liberals...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep
It sounds like in Gells case there was definate misconduct on the count of prosecutors and witnesses.

I'm glad to see that it was caught on appeal and that he was released.

That's why we have an appeals process.

We have never still had someone proven innocent after they were executed. The appeals process has worked. We do not need to get rid of the death penalty.

3 posted on 01/16/2006 1:31:32 PM PST by untrained skeptic
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep; iceskater; Gabz; P8riot; Nick The Freeper; Flora McDonald; Coop

Governor Tim Kaine was deeply saddened...

4 posted on 01/16/2006 2:57:51 PM PST by Corin Stormhands (My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Corin Stormhands
Governor Tim Kaine was deeply saddened...

That's for danged sure. Poor Timmy, horseface couldn't give him an inauguration present.

5 posted on 01/16/2006 3:16:23 PM PST by Gabz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep

Marsh isn't doing too well. His perennial "gunshow loophole" bill died in committee too. Good ridance to bad legislation.

6 posted on 01/16/2006 3:18:24 PM PST by P8riot (When they come for your guns, give them the bullets first.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep

Working on MLK's Birthday?

I like it.

7 posted on 01/16/2006 3:22:03 PM PST by leadpenny
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: teenyelliott
death penalty dies

With strange eons even death penalties may die....

8 posted on 01/16/2006 4:04:46 PM PST by steve-b (A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: P8riot

What changed this year to cause it to not get out of committee?

9 posted on 01/17/2006 7:12:33 AM PST by Nick The Freeper
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: P8riot; Corin Stormhands; Nick The Freeper; Gabz

But there's still his stupid hands-free cell phone bill to worry about.

Honestly, is this guy just not busy enough that he keeps proposing such nanny-state legislation?

10 posted on 01/17/2006 7:20:26 AM PST by iceskater ("Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." - Kipling)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: lunarbicep
Death penalty moratorium measure dies in Va. committee

Duh. Virginia leads the nation in administering the death penalty per capita.

btw, they should call it the Life Penalty, not the Death Penalty, since it is your life that is being penalized.
11 posted on 01/17/2006 7:25:37 AM PST by Hoodat ( Silly Dems)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Nick The Freeper
A bunch of VCDL folks showed up and testified against it. On top of that it was apparent that Mr. Marsh either didn't know what was in his own bill, or deliberately lied saying that it didn't apply to permit holders (no such provision exists). Finally one of the anti-gun folks on the committee (Saslaw) begrudgingly admitted that gun-control laws have done little or nothing to prevent crime. After that the vote was 9 to 4 to kill it.

Here are the particulars from the latest VCDL Alert:

For the record, here was the vote today in the Senate Courts of Justice committee to kill SB 15 (the so-called "gunshow loophole" bill):

Voted to kill SB 15: Stolle, Quayle, Norment, Edwards, Reynolds, Rerras, Blevins, Cuccinelli, Obenshain

Voted to pass SB 15: Saslaw, Marsh, Howell, Lucas

If your Senator voted to kill SB 15, send him an email or give him a call to thank him for his vote.

12 posted on 01/17/2006 7:33:35 AM PST by P8riot (When they come for your guns, give them the bullets first.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson