Governor rejects forced electric-chair executions

2016-04-11 21:59
This file photo shows the electric chair at the Greensville Correction Centre in Jarratt, Virginia. (AP)

This file photo shows the electric chair at the Greensville Correction Centre in Jarratt, Virginia. (AP)

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Richmond - Virginia's governor on Monday rejected an effort to force condemned inmates to die in the electric chair, replacing the proposal with one that would keep secret the identities of pharmacies that supply lethal injection drugs.

Governor Terry McAuliffe stripped the electric chair provisions from the bill and vowed to veto the measure if lawmakers don't approve his changes, which he said offer a "reasonable middle ground" on an emotionally charged issue. He warned that unless lawmakers approve his proposal, capital punishment will come to a halt in the state.

McAuliffe's amendment would give the state the authority to mix its own execution drug cocktails using products from pharmacies whose identities would remain confidential.

Without the secrecy provision, the measure is "only an empty gesture", McAuliffe said, because drug manufacturers will continue to refuse to do business in Virginia unless their names are kept secret. Florida, Texas and Ohio have applied similar provisions in their compounding laws, he said.

Virginia is one of at least eight states that allow electrocutions, but it currently gives inmates the choice of lethal injection or the electric chair.

The original bill sought to allow the state to use the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are unavailable. Supporters of that measure said Virginia has no choice because death penalty opponents have made it so difficult to find the drugs.

McAuliffe faced pressure to veto the electric chair bill from religious groups and death penalty opponents, who say electrocutions are cruel and unusual punishment.

The governor said he finds the electric chair "reprehensible".

It's unclear whether there will be enough support in the General Assembly to approve McAuliffe's amendment. A similar measure backed by the governor failed last year.

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