Letter writer opposes upcoming execution

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To the Editor:

Virginia is scheduled to carry out its 106th execution on March 18th. It would be a miscarriage of justice for Virginians to permit this to happen.

There is no doubt that Paul Powell committed a horrible crime — a crime for which he could have been given a sentence of up to life imprisonment or, if aggravating factors were found, the death penalty.

But in its zeal to prove the presence of aggravating factors, the prosecution introduced false evidence that showed Powell guilty of two prior crimes of murder when in fact Powell had been cleared of those charges. Additionally, the prosecution also told the court that this evidence had been “certified” when in fact it was uncertified.

It shakes the confidence of Virginians in our criminal justice system when a jury’s death sentence rests on serious false evidence and a false claim introduced by the government. Such action by the prosecution should not be tolerated.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court has never reviewed all of the false evidences in this case. When four out of seven justices for this case upheld the lower court when reviewing only partial evidence, the other three justices wrote a vigorous dissent: “Such a serious mistake in a capital case may well cause the public to question whether our courts adequately ensure the fair application of the death penalty statue.”

In view of the above, Powell’s sentence should be commuted to life in prison without parole.

As the case now stands, the only person having authority to commute Powell’s sentence is the governor, who opposed Powell’s attempts to correct the serious errors made by the prosecution.

Please contact Gov. Robert McDonnell and request him to commute Powell’s sentence to life in prison without parole. You can contact Gov. McDonnell at P.O. Box 1475, Richmond, VA 23218 or 804-786-2211, by fax at 804-371-6351 or by e-mail at www.governor.virginia.gov/TheAdministration/contactGovernor.cfm.

Hunter Mabry