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LOCAL Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

The clock is ticking once again! VA set to execute Robin Lovitt on July 11

The clock is ticking once again! At 9:00 PM on Monday, July 11, Virginia is set to execute Robin Lovitt.

This will mark the 95th time since 1982 when the first execution in the Commonwealth post re-instatement of Capital Punishment took place.

The evidence in Mr. Lovitt's case, which state law requires be maintained prior to an execution, has already been destroyed. No one disagrees that the records in the case have been destroyed. All sides agree that the evidence is irretrievable. The disagreement is whether Robin Lovitt, the man whose life is literally “on the line? as of 9:00 PM tonight deserves to die as a result of a “mistake? by the State of Virginia.

By Virginia law, Lovitt is entitled to a complete review of the record and a testing of DNA materials involved in his case before his destruction by the State of Virginia.

At the present time it would appear that the only official with the power to undo the mistakes of the Commonwealth is Gov. Mark Warner. As governor, he has the power to stop the clock at any time between now and 8:59 PM on July 11th. During his tenure, Gov. Warner has refused to exercise his power to halt any of the 12 executions carried out. 13 is not a lucky number and executive clemency should not be a matter of luck. It should be an issue of justice and mercy.

When the state by its own admission has destroyed the only existing evidence that a condemned man relies upon to prove his guilt or innocence, there should only be one path to follow. Gov. Warner needs to commute Mr. Lovitt’s sentence and order a new trial. To do any less would condemn Robin Lovitt to the slow death of life in prison without parole or to the scheduled execution on July11th.

You can contact Gov. Warner via his website or by phone and fax.
Gov. Mark R. Warner
State Capitol, 3rd Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone: (804) 786-2211 Fax: (804) 371-6351
TTY/TDD (For the Hearing Impaired): (804) 371-8015
To send an electronic email message to the governor click below:
www.governor.virginia.gov/Contact/email_form.html
For a Fact Sheet on details of the case of Robin Lovitt visit: www.vadp.org/action.htm .
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The clock is ticking once again! That is the Death Watch clock, the one that Virginia has reset 95 times now since 1982 when the first execution in the Commonwealth post re-instatement of Capital Punishment took place. Back then the Death House was in Richmond. Now it has moved to Jarret, site of the Greensville Correctional Center. Somehow the words correctional and execution appear in my thesaurus as antonyms but in Virginia they are seen as synonyms.

However there is a problem with the impending execution of Robin Lovitt. The evidence in the case, which state law requires be maintained prior to an execution, has already been destroyed! But Virginia Attorney General Judith Jagdmann doesn’t see any need for alarm. She admits that the destruction of state evidence in the case was carried out by a court order signed by a Virginia judge. Not to worry, even though DNA evidence was presented to a jury and used to convict Robin Lovitt, the Attorney General’s office is on record as stating that the conviction did not rely on the DNA evidence. As strange as it may seem, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with Jagdmann that the “destruction of evidence? meaning the murder weapon containing testable DNA is not relevant to Mr. Lovitt’s case. I wonder how many of those wise judges would agree were it their evidence that was no longer available for the latest DNA testing?

Strangely enough Virginia has had such a bad record of destroying, loosing, or mis-testing DNA related evidence that in 2001 the Virginia legislature passed and then Gov. Gilmore signed into law a bill requiring the maintenance of all DNA evidence in felony cases. That law went into effect on May 2, 2001, three weeks before May 23, 2001 when 50 exhibits from Lovitt’s trial including the murder weapon containing blood and other DNA testable material were thrown out. According to the court clerk they were “taking up too much space.?

No one disagrees that the records in the case have been destroyed. All sides agree that the evidence is irretrievable. The disagreement is whether Robin Lovitt, the man whose life is literally “on the line? as of 9:00 PM on July 11, 2005 deserves to die as a result of a “mistake? by the State of Virginia. By Virginia law, Lovitt is entitled to a complete review of the record and a testing of DNA materials involved in his case before his destruction by the State of Virginia.

At the present time it would appear that the only official with the power to undo the mistakes of the Commonwealth is Gov. Mark Warner. As governor, he has the power to stop the clock at any time between now and 8:59 PM on July 11th. During his tenure, Gov. Warner has refused to exercise his power to halt any of the 12 executions carried out. 13 is not a lucky number and executive clemency should not be a matter of luck. It should be an issue of justice and mercy.

When the state by its own admission has destroyed the only existing evidence that a condemned man relies upon to prove his guilt or innocence, there should only be one path to follow. Gov. Warner needs to commute Mr. Lovitt’s sentence and order a new trial. To do any less would condemn Robin Lovitt to the slow death of life in prison without parole or to the scheduled execution on July11th.

You can contact Gov. Warner via his website or by phone and fax.
Gov. Mark R. Warner
State Capitol, 3rd Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone: (804) 786-2211 Fax: (804) 371-6351
TTY/TDD (For the Hearing Impaired): (804) 371-8015
To send an electronic email message to the governor click below:
www.governor.virginia.gov/Contact/email_form.html
For a Fact Sheet on details of the case of Robin Lovitt visit: www.vadp.org/action.htm .

To be involved in the movement to end the death penalty in Virginia contact the author.

Jack Payden-Travers, Director
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
P.O. Box 4804
Charlottesville, VA 22905
888-567-VADP (office)
434-960-4673 (Jack)
www.VADP.org
Jack (at) VADP.org
 
 


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