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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Virginia Governor Vetoes 5 Death Penalty Expansion Bills

While the Texas Legislature is considering expanding the death penalty in Texas to apply to repeat child abusers, the Governor of Virginia has vetoed five death penalty expansion bills.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Monday he had vetoed five bills that would have expanded the crimes punishable by death in Virginia, the state second only to Texas in executions.

"While the nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation are very serious, I do not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to protect human life or provide for public safety needs," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

Kaine vetoed bills that would have automatically made capital crimes of killing judges or witnesses to influence a judicial outcome, and arranging murder-for-hire. Another bill would have extended eligibility for the death penalty to those who plan or arrange for others to carry out a killing.

The Republican-dominated Legislature passed all five measures with sufficient votes to override the vetoes and will have a chance to do it during a one-day reconvened session April 4.

Del. M. Kirkland Cox, a Republican, said an override effort is likely.

"Obviously, we felt like those were narrowly drawn death penalty statutes that we thought were appropriate, so we'll listen to what the governor has to say on that," Cox said at a news conference.

Kaine, the state's first Roman Catholic governor, was elected two years ago acknowledging his objection to the death penalty but pledging to carry out Virginia's existing death penalty laws.

Kaine represented death row inmates as a lawyer in private practice and based his objection on his religious teachings.

Virginia has carried out 98 executions since the death penalty was reinstated. Texas has executed 388 people in that time, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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