Push for Va. Death Penalty Expansion Advances

January 28, 2011

A renewed, scaled-back push to expand the death penalty is advancing in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain has tried for years to repeal Virginia's triggerman rule, which allows only the person who does the actual killing to receive the death penalty. When it has advanced, the measure was vetoed.

On Thursday, a subcommittee of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee gave preliminary approval to Obenshain's bill to allow the death penalty for co-conspirators only in cases where a victim was raped and murdered. He argued that it shouldn't matter which defendant pulled the trigger.

Opponents argue any expansion of the death penalty increases chances of executing someone who is innocent.

Virginia has the nation's second-busiest death chamber.

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