Friday, November 25, 2005

Oops, so sorry but not really...

America will reach the unforgiving and tragic 1,000 milestone as it executes three prisoners this coming week. Lovitt of Virginia will be the latest victim.

Major newspapers this week are reporting on the soon-to-be shameful benchmark with gnashing of teeth, background and context; and the Washington Post came out against the execution for obvious reasons as you shall see below.

As a Virginian opposed to the death penalty, the only context I need is the case of Robin Lovitt. It perfectly mirrors the over-arching reason why the death penalty system is broken and the woeful practice must be stopped.

Mr. Lovitt was initially charged with killing the manager of Champion Billiards Sports Café in a Virginia suburb situated right outside the District on November 18, 1998. During the robbery, the victim, Clayton Chicks, was stabbed as the robber took off with $200.

Lovitt steadfastly avows he was not the killer, even though he confessed he grabbed the money. He says he was in the bathroom and when he came out and saw the carnage, he took the cash and ran to a nearby cousin's house.

The scissors used in the stabbing were later found “between the pool hall” and the cousin’s house, the Washington Post reports. At the time, DNA on the scissors was inconclusive and failed to tie Lovitt to the crime.

But with testimony from a jailhouse informant “and an eyewitness who said he was ‘80 percent’ certain" he was the killer, Lovitt was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

The evidence against Lovitt was strong, right...?

Well, on May 21, 2001, some deputy county clerk, deciding to make space in the evidence room, ordered Lovitt's stuff to be deep-sixed, and then some idiot judge signed the order.

So, poof, the evidence for Lovitt, including the tell-tale pair of scissors, were gone!

Enter Ken Starr, famous for his role in the Clinton impeachment, as Lovitt’s advocate.

“To this day,” Starr told the Post, “there has not been an adequate explanation as to why both the law and policy were violated in the destruction.” Virginia law requires “the preservation of biological evidence.”

Officials proclaim the error was not willful and the courts have said since it was not in “bad faith,” Lovitt has no cause for action. No intended harm, no foul; just a little tough luck for Mr. Lovitt, that's all.

"That's just wrong that someone can face death where there are safeguards in place and those were known and violated," Starr said in an interview, his voice gathering emotion. "That's just wrong."

With three executions this week and the 1,000 mark, Lovitt's story has picked up media steam and buzz.

Let us hope Gov. Mark Warner has the good judgment to listen to the former federal judge and U.S. solicitor under both Reagan and Bush.

Stop the execution of Robin Lovitt and stave off the chance of killing yet another innocent prisoner in Virginia. Listen to the former judge.

Great post. You know that one eyewitness even came forward last week saying he wasnt sure and RL shouldn't be executed. You can email Warner here:
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