Friday 4 February 2011

Virginia Senate panel rejects 'triggerman' bill

Legislation described as a “pared-down” expansion of the death penalty died in a Senate committee Wednesday.
Sen. Mark Obenshain’s bill, SB1200, was drafted to redefine the so-called triggerman rule to a make it clear in the law that a principal co-conspirator in the rape and murder of another would be eligible for the death penalty even if the offender didn’t commit the killing. Under current law, only the person who commits capital murder can be sentenced to death.
The bill to change that policy was defeated on an 8-6 vote in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
It came up in that committee Monday, but action was delayed after Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, requested an amendment to the bill to exempt a person who was present during a rape and murder but didn’t actively participate in either act.
The revised bill, Obenshain told the committee Wednesday, achieved his goal of targeting criminals “who are truly culpable” in rapes and homicides.
A Harrisonburg Republican, Obenshain has long championed changing the state’s death penalty law.
Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Charles City County, pleaded with his colleagues to reject the proposal because people can sometimes be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death.
“This is the ultimate penalty,” he said. “There is no exoneration.”
Julian Walker

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