Virginia Set to Execute 100th Inmate

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Virginia Set to Execute 100th Inmate

Post  NEADP on Mon Jun 23, 2008 5:41 pm

The nation's second busiest death chamber is preparing for a grim milestone.

Unless the courts or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine intervene, Robert Stacy Yarbrough, 30, will die by lethal injection Wednesday at the Greensville Correctional Center, becoming the 100th person executed in Virginia since capital punishment was reinstated 3 decades ago.

Virginia ranks 2nd in modern-era executions to Texas, which has had 406. But a decreasing number of death sentences, a dwindling death row and the state's changing political climate could allow others to surpass Virginia. Oklahoma isn't far behind with 86 executions. Missouri and Florida also have put more than 60 inmates to death.

"I think 5 years from now Virginia won't be in that position," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "It will still have the death penalty and it will still be executing people, but 1 or 2 a year perhaps."

5 executions have been scheduled over 2 months in Virginia since a moratorium was lifted after the U.S. Supreme Court found that lethal injection was constitutional. No executions in Virginia were held in 2007, and 4 were carried out in 2006.

Virginia was home to the 1st recorded execution in the New World, when in 1608 Captain George Kendall was shot at Jamestown for being a spy for Spain. The state led the nation in executions before the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972. Capital punishment was reinstated 4 years later.

Virginia's death row pales in comparison to many other states. Including Yarbrough, there are 17 inmates on death row - 16 men and 1 woman. California leads the nation with more than 670 death row inmates, Florida has 388 and Texas 367. Pennsylvania and Alabama also have more than 200 inmates awaiting execution, but Pennsylvania has only executed 3 inmates since 1976.

Virginia also is not sending as many criminals to death row as it used to. From 1990 to 2000, the state averaged 6 death sentences each year. Virginia abolished parole in 1994, but Dieter said it took juries a while to trust that someone sentenced to life wouldn't be set free in 20 years. From 2001 through 2006, Virginia averaged 3 death sentences each year.

Even Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was spared the death penalty in 2006 in increasingly liberal northern Virginia, the state's most populous area. The region has helped several Democrats get elected in recent years, including Kaine, who as a Roman Catholic is personally opposed to the death penalty.

Virginia also executes inmates quicker than most states. Since 1991, Virginia inmates have averaged a little over 7 years from sentencing to death. Nationally, death row inmates typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution, and some condemned prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years.

Yarbrough originally was sentenced to death in 1998 for nearly decapitating store owner Cyril Hugh Hamby, 77, while he and high school classmate Dominic Jackson Rainey robbed his store.

The Virginia Supreme Court demanded a second sentencing hearing because the judge failed to tell the jury that Yarbrough would not be eligible for parole if sentenced to life in prison. He was sentenced to death by a 2nd jury in 2000.

Rainey, who was 17 at the time, testified against Yarbrough and received 25 years in prison instead of the death penalty.

Yarbrough's lawyers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court and Kaine to spare his life. "Stacy Yarbrough to this day professes his innocence to this murder," Bilisoly said.

Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty urged Kaine to block the state's 100th execution. "Let's stop the killing before Virginia hits this ugly milestone," said Betty Gallagher, a group spokeswoman. The group will hold a vigil outside the prison Wednesday.

(source: WJLA News)

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