HB 2418 to be heard today in General Laws Committee; companion bill has passed Senate

Richmond, VA — Six Virginia organizations have joined forces to stop the passage of HB 2418, a bill that could thwart investigations of botched executions by making it impossible to identify Department of Corrections personnel responsible for carrying them out.
Sponsored by Delegate Terry Kilgore, HB 2418 states that the i dentities of “persons designated to carry out an execution, and any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identities of such persons is to be confidential,” and “not [to] be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any proceeding.”
A memo sent earlier today to the House General Laws Committee points out that the bill is unnecessary since the names and other personal information about individuals performing executions is already protected by state personnel policy and is exempt from inquiries made pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
According to the memo, HB 2418 goes too far by also excluding identifying information from being used in court proceedings reviewing executions in which something went wrong. Under current law, a court may determine when identifying information is necessary for a complete and fair hearing to take place. Under the proposed law, even if a court were to determine that identifying information was necessary, it could not require the Department of Corrections to reveal it.
“The bill is a license for cover-up when something goes wrong with an execution,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Under current law, we protect the privacy of persons who carry out executions by not revealing their names, but when a problem arises we have the ability to know who carried out the execution and what they did. Under the proposed law, we may never be able to get to the bottom of a botched execution.”
“Problems with lethal injection procedures have led nine states to suspend or change how they carry out executions,” said Jack Payden-Travers, executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “It is imperative that we have the ability to fully explore any problems that arise with executions in Virginia, so we’ll know how to fix them.”
The groups that signed the memo are: The Virginia Press Association, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Friends Committee on Commonwealth Legislation, and the Virginia Organizing Project . A copy of the memo is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20070201-Memo-Hb2814-Executions.pdf.

Contacts: Kent Willis (w) 804/644-8022, Jack Payden-Travers 888/567-8237