The House of Delegates has given a preliminary approval to legislation that
would expand the state's death penalty to include people involved in a capital
murder who do not actually commit the killing.
House Bill 389, sponsored by C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, would redefine the
state's so-called "triggerman rule" by making accessories and principals in the
second degree eligible for capital punishment if they are determined to have
the same intent to kill as the actual killer.
Currently, participants in the 2nd degree can only be deemed death-penalty
eligible in cases of murder for hire, terrorism or organized crime.
Gilbert called the existing rule an "unnecessary restriction," declaring: "This
rule has had its time. It's time to repeal it."
Del. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, argues that the bill would likely result
in more people being wrongfully convicted of capital murder.
"We do get it wrong," he said. "You can never go back and measure in intent,
and there will be more mistakes if we pass this."
Added Morrissey: "This bill allows someone to be executed even if they're not
at the scene of the murder."
Gilbert countered that Osama bin Laden was nowhere near the Twin Towers on
Sept. 11, 2001, but everyone understood he was responsible for the terrorist
A similar measure died in the Senate after failing to advance out of the Senate
Courts of Justice Committee on a 7-7 party line vote.
Gilbert's bill, which advanced to final reading today on a voice vote, would
need to clear the same committee in order to become law.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, opposes the legislation and has
said that it would be tantamount to a "miscarriage of justice."
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)