Death penalty may nab accomplices
Virginia is on the verge of significantly expanding the pool of criminals eligible for the death penalty after a flurry of activity in the state legislature earlier this week.
The new inductees include judge killers, court witness killers, and – perhaps most surprisingly – accomplices. Previously, the death penalty was limited to only the lowlife thugs who actually delivered the fatal blow, a clause called the "Triggerman Rule."
Now, the lowlife thug driving the getaway car could find himself on death row as well. The House of Delegates may have been particularly influenced by the duo of Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammed, who were responsible for a region-terrorizing series of sniper killings in 2002, or by the two men who slew the Harvey family a year ago. The bill passed 83 to 11.
In contrast, the fact that murdering a judge could soon be landing you in the chair is a bit less surprising, however, since killing a police officer has long been able to do the same.
Virginia has long been one of the most capital punishment-wielding states in the country, with total executions coming in second only to Texas. That even included minors until recently; the practice ended only after the Supreme Court outlawed the use of the death penalty for juveniles in early 2005.