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article imageVirginia bill to force use of electrocution returned to committee

By Karen Graham     Feb 6, 2014 in Crime
In the U.S., lethal injection is the primary method of execution, although some states give the condemned a choice of a firing squad, hanging, the gas chamber or electrocution. But the drugs used in lethal injections have become difficult to obtain.
In Virginia, the designated default method of execution is lethal injection, with electrocution being the back-up form of execution. But on November 31, 2013, Virginia's supply of drugs used to mix the deadly cocktail expired.
On Thursday, Virginia's Senate Democrats effectively defeated a bill that would have made electrocution in the state's electric chair the default method of punishment. The Democrats voted 21-9 to send Senate Bill 607 to the Courts of Justice Committee, where they hold a 9-6 majority,effectively tabling the legislation until next year.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, said it is doubtful the bill will make it back to the Senate this year. Supporters of Carrico’s bill point out that a shortage of drugs used for lethal injections would prevent the Department of Corrections from carrying out executions, making the electric chair the obvious method of execution by default.
There are eight people awaiting execution in the state's prison system, but no executions are scheduled, due to the long appeals process.
Given the controversy surrounding the use of the electric chair, Senate Democrats thought it prudent to send the bill to Courts of Justice Committee so that legal justifications and constitutionality of the legislation could be explored.
While passage of the legislation would have made Virginia the first state in the U.S. to bring back the electric chair as the preferred method of punishment, the problem of carrying out executions in other states where lethal injection is the primary method of death, and the lack of the drugs to do the job, has become a very big issue.
At the present time, 32 states still use capital punishment as the ultimate punishment for serious crimes. Since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment, a total of 1,365 people have been put to death. Today, minus the eight people on Virginia's death row, there are about 3,100 people waiting for execution in the U.S. California has the most, with 731.
More about Virginia, Lethal injection, drug shortage, Electric chair, US Supreme Court
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