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Thread: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

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    Default VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    By KRISTEN GELINEAU
    The Associated Press
    RICHMOND, Va. - A day before Robin Lovitt was to become the 1,000th person executed since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976, Virginia's governor spared the man's life.

    Lovitt's sentence on Tuesday was commuted to life in prison without parole for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a 1988 pool hall robbery.

    Gov. Mark R. Warner said evidence from Lovitt's trial had been improperly destroyed, depriving the defense of the opportunity to subject the material to the latest in DNA testing.

    "The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," said Warner, who had never before granted clemency to a death row inmate.

    The 1,000th execution is now scheduled for early Friday in North Carolina, where Kenneth Lee Boyd is slated to die for killing his estranged wife and her father.

    "It certainly means the case will draw more media attention, and I hope that means that the governor will therefore take the clemency petition seriously but I hope that would be true regardless of whether this is case 999, 1,000 or 1,001," said Boyd's attorney, Thomas Maher.

    North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley will treat the execution like others he has considered, spokeswoman Cari Boyce said.

    Lovitt, 42, was convicted in 1999 of murdering Clayton Dicks at an Arlington, Va. pool hall. Prosecutors said Dicks caught Lovitt prying open a cash register with the scissors, which police found in the woods between the pool hall and the home of Lovitt's cousin.

    Lovitt admitted grabbing the cash box but insisted someone else killed Dicks. Initial DNA tests on the scissors were inconclusive.

    In 2001, a court clerk destroyed much of the evidence in the case, including the scissors, making additional DNA testing impossible.

    Just a few weeks earlier, Virginia implemented a law requiring the preservation of DNA evidence in death row cases.

    Lovitt's lawyers, who include former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, argued that the more sophisticated DNA tests that are available today could have cleared their client.

    "We believe this decision to be entirely proper, given the extraordinary circumstances of Mr. Lovitt's case," said Ashley Parrish, one of Lovitt's attorneys.

    Michelle Dicks, the victim's niece, said the family was struggling to cope with Warner's decision.

    "We're not too happy, but it doesn't make a difference, because it doesn't bring my uncle back," said Dicks, 35, of Washington, D.C.

    The governor, who is considered a possible Democratic presidential contender in 2008, said he was "acutely aware of the tragic loss experienced by the Dicks family."

    "However, evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was destroyed by a court employee" before post-conviction DNA tests could be done, he said. "The actions of an agent of the commonwealth, in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law, comes at the expense of a defendant facing society's most severe and final sanction."

    Death penalty proponents were outraged.

    "The governor has sided with a killer against the working people of America," said Michael Paranzino, president of Throw Away the Key, a group that supports the death penalty. "Lovitt's a cold-blooded killer and he's just been given an early Christmas gift by Warner."


    Associated Press Writer Estes Thompson in Raleigh, N.C. contributed to this report.


    Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
    Is there actually a group called 'Throw away the key'? Hmmm...they sound very reasonable and thoughtful.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Default Re: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    Yeah, I've been following this case and wondering if Warner was going to stop the clock on the execution. Good for him, he just won my vote for prez.

    The whole death penalty thing needs to be revisited in our country. There's no hard evidence to support that it in any way is a deterrent to serious crime. It's too arbitrarily applied, it's cruel and unusual punishment and there's too great a chance that the wrong man has been convicted. Our nation is one of the few developed nations that still extracts this type of veangance. I think a greater punishment is keeping the prisoner alive in prison, away from their loved ones without any luxuries, to live out the remainder with no hope of parole.

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    Default Re: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    If it was a deterrent we would have seen a sharp dip in the murder rates since 1977...particularly in '77. I think it's fairly obvious that we haven't. But I think people don't support the death penalty because it might deter someone from committing murder. I think it's very much about retribution, and eye for an eye, etc. We live in vindictive times.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Bronze Member Tsarina's Avatar
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    Default Re: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    It was the right thing to do in this case because the evidence had been destroyed which ruled out a chance to test DNA. Good call.

    Side note - I can't imagine what it feels like to know you're about to die one day and then have your sentence changed to life in prison the next. Total mind F. I would think.
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    Gold Member moocow's Avatar
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    Default Re: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    One thing I learned from L&O - the death penalty is a useful bargaining chip. It can be used to get a murderer to give up all the bodies - give us this, we'll give you life in prison. Or to get them to plea (dropping a trial) in exchange for life. The expense of a trial is incredible - again from L&O, they said something in one episode how that particular murder trial's prosecution cost was around $90,000.

    For me, personally - if I knew I was innocent and was hoping there would be a chance I was exonerated, then sure, I would fight the death penalty. Otherwise, I'd rather just get it over with rather than spending the rest of my life in prison. It just wouldn't be worth it.

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    Default Re: VA. gov spares condemned man's life one day before he was to be executed.

    Side note - I can't imagine what it feels like to know you're about to die one day and then have your sentence changed to life in prison the next. Total mind F. I would think.
    Read 'An American Tragedy'. It simply re-affirmed my opposition to the death penalty.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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