Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe [official website] on Sunday offered amendments to an alternative execution bill (HB 815) [text, PDF] that would have required the use of the electric chair if lethal injections are unavailable. McAuliffe scrapped the bill’s provision [AP report] allowing for electrocution stating [official Twitter] that Virginians “do not wish to be forced into using this terrible form of punishment.” McAuliffe instead added a provision permitting the state, when faced with a lethal injection drug shortage, to special-order drugs from pharmacies whose identities would be kept secret to shield them from potential political fallout. The state legislature can accept or veto this amendment on April 20.
Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] rejected [JURIST report] a Georgia death row inmate’s legal challenge to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution if the state prohibits lethal injection [JURIST report]. The US Supreme Court in January ruled [JURIST report] in Kansas v. Carr [opinion, PDF] that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.