Peace Speaks on Death Penalty

Delegate expresses commitment for public safety and protecting our judicial system Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) today voted against upholding the Governor's veto of five bills that would have expanded the death penalty to people convicted of arranging murders for hire, who kill judges or who kill witnesses to influence the outcome of a court case. All five bills passed with more than the 67 votes necessary to override the governor's veto in the 100-member House and the 27 required to do the same in the 40-seat Senate.

House Bill 2750 and House Bill 2347 would make the murder of a judge and the murder of a witness in a criminal case, respectively, into capital crimes; Senate Bill 1116 proposes a similar measure. House Bill 2348 and its counterpart Senate Bill 1288 would make accessories to first degree murder eligible for the death penalty, they modify Virginia's "triggerman rule."

To be eligible in Virginia for the death penalty, a criminal must commit a murder under one or more special circumstances. These circumstances include robbery or attempted robbery; rape or attempted rape or sodomy, or attempted sodomy, or object sexual penetration; abduction with intent to extort money; the killing of a law enforcement officer; a multiple homicide; murder for hire; murder while incarcerated; murder of more than 1 person in a 3 year period; drug related; pregnant woman; murder victim is less than 14 by an over 21 year old perpetrator.

Once a jury finds a person guilty of capital murder, they have a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the crime was vile enough to warrant the death penalty and/or whether the person represents a future danger so great he must be executed. A circuit judge then considers the juries recommendations as he imposes the sentence. The conviction then enters the appeals stage, which involves a number of possibilities.

"These measures are narrowly drawn death penalty statutes and Virginia's system contains adequate safeguards for the innocent," affirmed Delegate Peace. "We must enact laws that make Virginians safer and serve as a deterrent to criminals."