Sunday, November 20, 2005

November 15, 2005

Dear Sis ~

Well, the gubernatorial election is over here in Virginia. The Democrat (and Lt. Governor) Tim Kaine defeated the Republican (and attorney general) Jerry Kilgore, which was a little surprising inasmuch as Virginia is solidly conservative and Republican. But Kilgore turned off the public with his relentlessly negative TV ads. All of his ads dealt with just one issue, the death penalty. Over and over and over all Kilgore spoke about was his promise to execute more people, and to do it faster. His vow to eliminate appeals and speed up executions was particularly pointless in view of the fact that Virginia already leads the nation, by a substantial margin, in the speed with which it carries out executions. The average death row stay here is about 4 1/2 years; the next fastest state is about 7 years, with most states averaging 10 years or more. Anyway, all Kilgore spoke about was him promise to expand the use of capital punishment, and his dire warnings that his opponent, Tim Kaine, "cannot be trusted to carry out executions." He based these statements on the fact that, in the past, Kaine suggested Virginia should consider a moratorium on the death penalty until certain legal problems can be straightened out (like the investigation into the state crime laboratory which has already uncovered fabricated DNA results). Kaine countered with a TV ad stating that while his Catholic faith leads him to consider all life to be sacred, and that he does not personally believe in capital punishment, he would do his duty as Governor and would not interfere with executions. Kaine, unlike Kilgore, also spoke about the real issues which the citizens were concerned with (taxes, education, roads and bridges, the environment, the budget). The fact that conservative Virginians voted in Kaine, despite his decidedly lukewarm support for executions, reflects an important shift in the voters' mentality, in my opinion. It sends a message to politicians that they don't have to be a mad dog killer to get elected (and that it takes more than just spouting pro-death penalty slogans to win over the voters), and that prospective politicians don't have to fear showing a little compassion and common sense. Like most folks, I don't have a very high opinion of most politicians, but Tim Kaine appears to be a genuinely decent guy, and I expect he will be an excellent Governor. And maybe, just maybe, he'll do something to correct and slow down the death penalty train in this state...

Love & Peace,

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nov 5, 2005 - Rob Lovitt's execution date reset.

Dear Sis~
A death warrant has been signed for Rob Lovitt; his execution date is set for November 30th. You may recall that about 4 months ago, a few hours before his execution, Rob received a last minute stay of execution from the US Supreme Court. The Court had just gone into its regular 3-month summer recess and a single Justice granted Rob a temporary stay until the Court reconvened in October. At that time the Court would decide whether to actually hear his case (this is the case where the clerk of the court deliberately destroyed all of the evidence right after Rob's trial). Well, when the Court reconvened last month they entered an order declining to hear his case and dissolving the stay of execution. So, right now there's nothing standing between Rob and the executiuoner, other than the exceptionally slim possibility that Governor Warner might grant him clemency. Warner has not granted anyone clemency during his four years in office, and there were several deserving cases during that time, so I have no reason to believe that he'll do anything different with Rob. Still, there's a gubernatorial election next Tuesday, and Warner, who by law cannot run again, is on his way out. He'll still technically be governor on november 30th, when Rob is scheduled to die, but the new governor will already be elected, though not sworn in. So, for Warner, there would be no political downside if he chose to grant clemency on his way out the door. On the other hand, it's well known that Warner has higher political ambitions, including the White House. So, I can't see him doing it, not in this day and age when it's political suicide (or so politicians think) to do anything that will allow a future opponent to label them as "soft on crime."

You know, the odd thing about clemency is that in the old days, back in the 1930's, 40's and 50's, governors commonly granted clemency. Democrats and Republicans both, even in the conservative deep south, were not afraid to exercise their executive clemency powers. When you go through the records you're surprised at how often clemency was granted, and by whom. The governors took their responsibility seriously, recognizing their role as the final check against injustice, and they were not cowed by a perceived public clamor for execution. The general public, in fact, was much less bloodthirsty, and considerably more understanding and compassionate than today's public. Nowadays everyone howls for blood, drowning out the few voices calling for compassion and mercy (Shakespeare declared that "mercy is nobility's true badge"). This nation was born in, and forged by, violence and blood, so I guess our proclivity for carnage, our yearning for bloodletting, should not surprise me.

Well, tonight I enjoyed watching the Miami Hurricanes (ranked #5 in the nation) defeat Virginia Tech (ranked #3) in Blacksburg, Virginia. All of the ESPN commentators had, up until the game, blithely assumed that Virginia Tech would win, and were loudly presuming that Virginia Tech would finish the season undefeated and possibly contend for the national title against USC. Well, the Hurricanes completely dominated Virginia Tech, handing them a first class ass whipping. When the new poll comes out on Monday, Miami will probably be ranked #3 and now they have a shot at the title game, if either USC or Texas loses one of their remaining games.

Alright, Sis, it's way past midnight and I'm gonna hit the hay. Give little Harley a pat on the head and a tummy rub! He's a great looking little puppy and you're lucky to have him!
Love & Peace,

Comment from Bill's sister:
Tim Kaine, Democrat, was elected Governor of Commonwealth of Virginia yesterday.