ACLU and other groups poised to prevent override in veto session next week

Richmond, VA —Governor Tim Kaine today vetoed all five recently passed bills expanding the death penalty in Virginia. Cumulatively, the five bills allowed capital murder charges to be brought against individuals who killed a judge, a jury member, or a witness, and they eliminated the “triggerman rule,” which restricts the death penalty to those directly involved in a murder.
“The Governor’s veto shows that he lacks confidence in the way the death penalty is administered in our state,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Studies of the death penalty in Virginia in recent years have portrayed our system as lacking in essential due process safeguards and tending to rush the process. The Governor most certainly took these factors into account in making his decision.”
With the vetoes, the Governor released the following statement: “ Virginia is already second in the nation in the number of executions we carry out. While the nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation are very serious, I do not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to protect human life or provide for public safety needs.”
Shortly after the Governor announced the vetoes, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell released a statement urging legislators to vote to override the vetoes in the upcoming veto session on April 4.
“It is a shame that at a time when our society is finally questioning the fairness and effectiveness of the death penalty, Virginia’s legislators choose to move in an entirely different direction.” added Willis. “While others attempt to curtail the death penalty, Virginia’s legislators are expanding it.”
A court in Maryland effectively created a temporary moratorium on the death penalty last December, and legislators there seriously grappled with a bill to repeal the state’s capital crimes law. In North Carolina the state Medical Board has barred active participation by physicians in executions, and a judge has ruled that no execution can be carried out without a physician present. For the moment, no executions are being carried out in North Carolina.
The Governor vetoed House Bill 2750 (premeditated killing of a judge), House Bill 2347 (premeditated killing of a witness), House Bill 2348(elimination of the triggerman rule) Senate Bill 1116 (premeditated killing of a judge, jurist or witness) , and Senate Bill 1288 (elimination of the triggerman rule).

Contact: Kent Willis, (w) 804/644-8022