Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lovitt granted clemency!

Robin Lovitt, at least, will not be the 1,000th person executed in the United States since the 1970s. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner late this afternoon announced that, for the first time during his term of office, he is commuting a death sentence to live in prison without parole. This isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card, mind you; it's not a ticket to Disney World. It is life in prison without parole. Life in a tiny, dismal jail cell where roaches and rats compete for space underneath your blanket at night.

Here is an abbreviated version of the AP story on today's commutation, along with a couple of quotes from Gov. Warner.

Va. Gov. Grants Clemency for Condemned Man

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Mark R. Warner on Tuesday spared the life of a convicted killer who would have been the 1,000th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.

The governor commuted Robin Lovitt's death sentence to life in prison
without parole.

Lovitt, 42, was set to be executed by injection Wednesday night for
stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a pool-hall robbery in 1998.

In granting clemency, the governor noted that evidence that had been
improperly destroyed after Lovitt's conviction.

"The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," Warner said in a statement.

Warner, a Democrat, had never before granted clemency to a death row inmate during his four years in office. During that time, 11 men have been executed.

Lovitt's lawyers, who include former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, and anti-death penalty advocates had argued that his life should be spared because a court clerk illegally destroyed the bloody scissors and other evidence, preventing DNA testing that they said could exonerate him.

Lovitt was convicted in 1999 of murdering Clayton Dicks at an Arlington pool hall. Prosecutors said Dicks caught Lovitt prying open a cash register with the scissors, which police found in the woods between the pool hall and the home of Lovitt's cousin.

Lovitt admitted grabbing the cash box but insisted someone else killed
Dicks. Initial DNA tests on the scissors were inconclusive.

Warner said he was "acutely aware of the tragic loss experienced by the
Dicks family."

"However, evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was destroyed by a court employee before that process could be completed," he said. "The actions of an agent of the commonwealth, in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law, comes at the expense of a defendant facing society's most severe and final sanction."

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