Governor Terry McAuliffe on Monday said that he had proposed to keep the secrets the identities of the pharmacies that supply the lethal injection drugs for executions, while instead changing the law to force inmates to die in the electric chair if there are no drugs available.
The Governor has literally vowed to veto the contentious measure of electric chair provision if the lawmakers re introduce it. His reasoning was that unless Virginia shields lethal injection drug manufacturers from public scrutiny, capital punishment will come to a standstill in the state.
McAuliffe said that without the secrecy provision, the manufacturers would continue to refuse to supply drugs to Virginia unless their names are kept undisclosed. Florida, Texas and Ohio have similar provisions in their compounding laws, hence it is not something that is out of the ordinary.
Virginia is one of at least eight states that allow electrocutions, but currently gives inmates the choice of lethal injection or the electric chair.
The original bill sought to allow the state to use the electric chair when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.
Supporters of that measure said Virginia has no choice but to make electrocutions its default method because death penalty opponents have made it so difficult to find drugs. Lawmakers who backed the bill used the pending execution of a convicted murder to make their case, detailing his grisly crimes in emotional speeches in the General Assembly.
But McAuliffe faced intense pressure to veto the electric chair bill from religious groups and other death penalty opponents, who say electrocutions are cruel and unusual punishment.
A similar measure backed by the governor failed in the General Assembly last year amid concerns over transparency. Republican Del. Jackson Miller, who sponsored the electric chair bill, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.
Democratic Sen. Scott Surovell, a staunch death penalty opponent, said he’s pleased that McAuliffe didn’t sign the electric chair bill but has serious concerns about shrouding the execution process in secrecy.
Virginia’s two scheduled executions have been put on hold, pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ricky Gray, who was sentenced to death for the 2006 murders of a family of four in Richmond, was supposed to be executed March 16. Ivan Teleguz, who was convicted of hiring a man to kill his ex-girlfriend, was set to receive a lethal injection on Wednesday, but his execution has also been delayed, pending the high court’s review.