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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Electric Chair As Alternative To Lethal Injection

The Virginia State Legislature recently passed legislation allowing the electric chair to be used as an alternative to lethal injection should the drugs not be available. The controversial bill comes as a response to a nationwide shortage of the lethal drug cocktail needed to execute those sentenced to die.

The bill first passed the House by a vote of 62-33 and most recently the Senate by a vote of 22-17. All that is needed for the bill to become law is the approval of Gov. Terry McAuliffe who has not commented whether he will sign the measure into law.

Electric chair or lethal injection?

Currently, inmates in Virginia have a choice between lethal injection or the electric chair. By passing on the electric chair, lethal injection becomes the method of execution. However, without the drugs needed to carry out lethal injection, the process of execution may be delayed since inmates may pass on the electric chair.

Virginia is one of only eight states still utilizing the electric chair to carry out executions. 2016 marks the third year in a row Virginia State Legislators introduced measures to make the electric chair a viable alternative to lethal injection.

States responding to execution drug shortages

The last inmate to be executed via the electric chair was an inmate convicted in the double murder of two other prisoners. He died in the electric chair in 2013.

Tennessee already passed a similar bill to the one awaiting Gov. McAuliffe’s signature. States like Utah and Oklahoma are also seeking alternatives to lethal injection, such as the firing squad or gas chamber. So far, no state has utilized either firing squad or the gas chamber to put inmates to death.

Opponents call the bill a “step backward”

Opponents of the bill such as the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Alternatives to the Death Penalty have publicly criticized the proposed law. Even state lawmakers are concerned the alternatives to lethal injection subject the condemned to unnecessary pain and suffering prior to death.

Other lawmakers pushed back against the criticism, asserting convicted murders responsible for the deaths of multiple individuals deserve no right to die in a humane manner. No matter what Gov. McAuliffe decides to do with the bill, controversy will surely continue to plague the issue of what to do with individuals condemned to die and the issue of the death penalty as a whole.

Leesburg Criminal Defense Attorneys

As a law firm providing legal defense to individuals accused of criminal offenses, the law office of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC will continue to monitor the situation surrounding the proposed alternatives to lethal injection. When the state accuses someone the murder, these individuals should know that without proper representation, they could pay the ultimate price if convicted.

If you or a loved one face a criminal charge in Virginia, contact the criminal defense attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC for a consultation about your case. Our attorneys are ready to aid you in your time of need and help you understand your legal options.

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