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Gov. Terry McAuliffe amended a state bill in an attempt to save lethal injection as the preferred method of capital punishment in Virginia. Critics fighting execution as a form of punishment have put pressure on companies that manufacture the drugs necessary to take a life. McAuliffe introduced his plan on April 10, 2016, and the state legislature will vote on April 20.
Critics of the death penalty have pushed drug manufacturers to stop making chemicals needed for the lethal injections. As a result, companies have slowed production of these drugs. With a decrease in availability, the method of execution has become a focus of many state legislatures.
In the U.S., 19 states have dissolved capital punishment as a penal measure while many have kept it. The scarcity of drugs has forced many states to revert to more primitive means of execution. Utah had a tradition of using a firing squad to put down its convicts but moved to lethal injection as a more humane way of killing. Now Utah brought back the firing squad. Oklahoma approved using nitrogen gas for executions.
The state of Va. is trying to keep capital punishment. A bill was introduced into Va. legislature which allowed the use of the electric chair as a backup. Instead of signing, McAuliffe proposed a different solution. Late on April 10, he amended the bill, and the next day, he defended it.
McAuliffe said flooding bodies with 1,800 volts of electricity was deplorable. As an advocate of capital punishment himself, he pursued a means to preserve the lethal injection in his state.
The Washington Times reported, due to several botched lethal injections throughout the U.S., critics of capital punishment have been fighting against it. Those states wishing to keep execution as a method of punishment are finding it harder to acquire the drugs necessary. McAuliffe tried to save the lethal injection and does not want to revert to the electric chair.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Va. is third in the nation for criminals put to death. Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, the state has executed 111 people.
Rep. Jackson Miller of Manassas introduced the original bill. Known as HB815, the proposal would allow Va.’s Department of Corrections (DOC) to use the electric chair if drugs were not available for an injection.
McAuliffe has been strongly against using the chair. As a result, he decided to amend HB815 in order to save Va.’s death penalty. His plan would allow Va.’s DOC to create secret contracts with compounding pharmacies in order to secure a steady supply of drugs. McAuliffe proposal would block these contacts from being exposed via the Freedom of Information Act. As a result, companies working with the DOC would remain anonymous, and prevent them from becoming subject to lawsuits.
The Virginia-Pilot reported other states have similar programs. Texas, Ohio and Florida have all passed legislation in favor of protecting lethal injections.
The governor introduced his plan as a way to save Va.’s death penalty. He said he was not ready to watch the electric chair become a method of execution in his state. If the Republican-controlled legislature does not approve his bill, the governor made it clear he will veto HB815.
McAuliffe stated, “A veto of this bill will halt capital punishment in the commonwealth of Virginia.”
As critic have been fighting against the death penalty, drug companies have cut down on their production of drugs needed for the lethal injection. The legislators in Va. have taken it upon themselves to continue capital punishment whether or not the substances are available. McAuliffe has proposed a solution to save the lethal injection and keep the electric chair in the closet.
By Harrison Baker
The Virginia-Pilot: Gov. McAuliffe amends electric chair bill to allow secretly made drugs for lethal injection
The Washington Post: In a move that could jeopardize executions, McAuliffe wants to shield the identity of makers of lethal-injection drugs
The Washington Times: Terry McAuliffe, Va. governor, seeks to keep execution drug suppliers secret
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