House passes two bills to expand Virginia’s death penalty

courtroomTwo new bills passed in the Virginia House on February 3, paint a bleak picture for criminals in the Commonwealth. Now accomplices to murder and those who kill certain emergency personnel would be eligible for the death penalty.

The first bill, sponsored by Del. Brenda Pogge, passed the House 75-23. It adds auxiliary law-enforcement officers, EMS personnel, fire marshals and assistant fire marshals with law-enforcement powers to the capital murder statute so that the death sentence can be imposed for their murder.

The second bill, sponsored by Del. Todd Gilbert, passed with a vote of 74-24 and would remove the state’s triggerman rule which restricts capital punishment strictly to the criminal who committed the crime. The new bill allows principals in the second degree and accessories before the fact to be charged as principals in the first degree in the cases of murder for hire, murder involving a continuing criminal enterprise, and terrorism.

Former Governor Tim Kaine vetoed the triggerman bill for three years, but Governor Bob McDonnell has said he supports it.

Virginia has executed 105 inmates, second only to Texas, since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.