Virginia's Augusta Free Press carries, "Gilbert: 'We are back to square one' on triggerman bill," by Chris Graham.
Legislation known as the triggerman bill that would extend exposure to the death penalty to people complicit but not actually participants in capital murders failed in a State Senate committee on Monday, and its proponents are blaming partisanship.
“Democrats stacked the Courts committee this year, and it shows,” State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, wrote in an e-mail newsletter on Monday after the 9-6 party-line vote that killed his triggerman bill, SB 7, which would allow principals in the second degree and accessories before the fact to be charged as principals in the first degree in the cases of murder for hire, murder involving a continuing criminal enterprise, and terrorism.
“It wasn’t a total shock,” said State Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, the author of a similar piece of legislation that passed the House on Feb. 3 by a 74-24 vote, saying the move by Senate Democratic leaders to stack the Courts of Justice Committee with a 9-6 Democratic majority was a sign of things to come on criminal-justice matters.
The bill had passed out of the Senate three times before falling victim to former Gov. Tim Kaine’s veto pen.
Gilbert’s bill is still technically alive, but it would have to pass the Courts of Justice Committee. Gilbert doesn’t have high hopes for its passage.
Brian Evans of Amnesty International posts, "Former Executioner Helps Sink Virginia Death Penalty Expansion," at Opposing Views.
With a new Governor in place who was eager to sign the legislation, the bill was widely expected to pass, despite the fact that such an expansion would have greatly increased the risk of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions.
The drama came when former Virginia executioner Jerry Givens, who took part in 62 executions, testified against the bill. Mr. Givens told the committee how traumatic the execution process is for those enlisted to participate. Afterwards, he told The Washington Post<: “The people who pass these bills, they don’t have to do it. The people who do the executions, they’re the ones who suffer through it.”
Support for the death penalty is often inversely proportional to one’s distance from the realities of the process. Those with first-hand experience see how traumatic and degrading it can be, while those on the sidelines cheerlead for more executions comfortable in the knowledge that they will never have to deal directly with the ugly consequences.
Dallas Morning News journalist Diane Jennings noted Givens opposition in a post at the paper's Death Penalty blog, "Former executioner in Virginia opposes death penalty."
In Virginia, a state that, like Texas, is known for its use of the death penalty, legislators recently rejected several efforts to expand capital punishment. The only measure to survive was one that would allow the death penalty in cases where an auxiliary police officer is killed on duty.
But what caught my eye in this Associated Press story was a comment by the state's former executioner, Jerry Givens of Henrico, who presided over 62 executions and now opposes the ultimate sanction.
Earlier coverage, including Givens' opposition, begins with this post. It's not the first time that the former Virginia executioner has spoken out.
ABC News profiled Givens in 2007. "Interview With an Executioner," was produced by Jim Avila, Mary Haris, and Chris Francescani.
Jerry Givens spent 17 years as a professional killer. From 1982 to 1999, he killed 62 people.
He was never punished. His work was paid for by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
As the state's chief executioner, Givens pushed the buttons that administered lethal doses of electricity to the condemned. He could even choose how many volts to administer. And he is the first to admit that it was largely guesswork.
"If he was a small guy, I didn't give that much. You try not to cook the body, you know. I hate to sound gross,'' he told ABC News in a rare interview.
Only a handful of executioners in America have ever spoken publicly about their experiences, and fewer, if any, have revealed the emotional toll the job can take on a person or the mind-set of the man behind the proverbial mask.
Givens told ABC News that his experiences in the death chamber have caused him to change course and oppose the death penalty.