Monday, December 13, 2004

Playing politics with the death penalty

Virginia is one of the few states (New Jersey being the only other, I think) that elects its governor during odd-numbered years. So, next November, Virginia will choose between two candidates. Frontrunners are Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Lieutenant Gov. Timothy Kaine. Kaine has a history of opposing the death penalty.

This is a nonpartisan blog, so we can't officially endorse. However, we are allowed to publish information about the race. In this vein, we offer up this editorial from today's Washington Post:

Mr. Kilgore's False Start

Jerry W. Kilgore, the Republican attorney general of Virginia, apparently needs a refresher course on the Constitution. In attacking his likely opponent in the state's 2005 gubernatorial race, Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the attorney general said last week that Mr. Kaine "not only opposes the death penalty but actually represented death row inmates." As it happens, Mr. Kaine, a fair-housing and small-business lawyer at the time, acted as a court-appointed attorney to represent 2 Virginia death row inmates -- one in the mid-'80s, the other around 1990.
He did so, he says, after much soul-searching and in the knowledge that lawyers are bound by the ethics of their profession not to reject cases simply because they may be unpopular. As an attorney appointed by the state Supreme Court, Mr. Kaine was fulfilling a public service.

Mr. Kilgore's inane accusation is an affront to the principles of justice he is sworn to uphold. It's no great shock that he embraces the death penalty; what's surprising is that, as the state's top law enforcement official, he would imply that there is something wrong with representing defendants or convicts in capital cases. In fact, the attorney general in Virginia, whatever his stance on capital punishment, should be applauding lawyers who agree to represent inmates on death row, many of whom have no defense counsel whatever.

Mr. Kilgore was also once a lawyer in private practice. We assume that all his clients were law-abiding paragons of righteous behavior, but for the sake of argument let's say some of them were not. Should Mr. Kaine then attack him for his former clients' transgressions? Of course not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But Virginia is like the other states who like playing God and killing people - the truth about guilt or innocence or right or wrong does not matter. It is only winning that counts. So, the pro-death penalty guy will use any means to try to defeat the other candidate because it is only winning that counts.