The following statement is being released on behalf of the non-partisan Virginia Death Penalty Coalition, which is comprised of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the ACLU of Virginia and the Virginia Catholic Conference:
“The Virginia Department of Corrections has issued contradictory statements about the availability of lethal injection drugs for the scheduled execution on March 16, 2016. “The DOC acknowledges that it has two doses of the sedative pentobarbital used to render an inmate unconscious. The DOC strongly defended this drug as appropriate to execute Alfredo Prieto on October 1, 2015, and used only one dose in that execution.
“At the same time, the DOC asserts that it does not have the sedative drug needed to carry out an execution by lethal injection, but refuses to answer why the two doses on hand are insufficient because of potential litigation. According to the DOC, it has no idea how it will carry out executions in the future.
“However, the DOC Director has the authority to amend the lethal injection protocol to accommodate the existing stock of drugs in its possession to carry out executions. “The DOC’s claim that it lacks drugs needed for lethal injections has been used by others to pressure legislators to change the default execution method from lethal injection to the electric chair, which is widely viewed as an outdated, barbaric form of execution. If this bill (HB 815) is approved, Virginia would be just one of two states in the country that use the chair as their default method of execution. It would also grant unfettered authority to the DOC Director to determine how executions are carried out.
“The General Assembly should reject HB 815 which would allow the DOC to decide without scrutiny or supervision the manner of execution in Virginia. Citizens have a right to know how the death penalty is carried out in Virginia. It is long past time for the DOC to issue a clear and unambiguous statement regarding the method, if any, it intends to use to carry out future executions.”