Death Penalty Issue in Governor's Race

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

The political mud slinging has begun for the 2005 gubernatorial race.

The presumptive Republican candidate, Jerry Kilgore, has already started to dig into his presumptive opponent's past. Kilgore recently brought up two cases of death row inmates Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine defended back when he was a young lawyer. The clients have been long dead. But the issue of the death penalty is very much alive.

The death penalty issue is an issue that draws a definitive line between the two candidates. Kilgore, attorney general and director of public safety, is not only in favor of the death penalty, but also in strengthening it. Kaine, on the other hand, is not.
Joshua Scott from UVA's Center for Politics says Kaine is morally opposed to the death penalty, but he said he would administer it.

But Republicans point to Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who, they say said the same thing, but imposed a moratorium on the death penalty as soon as the opportunity became available, even people were guilty without a doubt.

But Democrats don't see Gov. Ryan's moratorium in the same light. Instead they see many innocent lives saved. In fact, they point to a similar situation here in Virginia where a death row inmate was found innocent very close to his execution date.

Delegate Mitch Van Yahres said that everybody makes mistakes and this shows that capital punishment is not perfect, as Gov. Ryan saw.

Still, when the General Assembly convenes next week, Democrats have numerous Kilgore–sponsored bills to face. In the bills, Kilgore seeks three key changes.

First, he would like to be able to appeal the dismissal of a charge on speedy trial grounds.

Second, he would like to eliminate the “trigger man requirement” which says the person prosecuted is the one who pulled the trigger.

Both of these bills were inspired by the sniper trial.

Last, Kilgore would like to eliminate the 'automatic life in jail default' when a jury is hung, and instead have the hung jury dismissed and replaced with a new one.

Democrats say this proposal, in particular, is trying to change the rules of the game to favor capital punishment.

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