Former Executioner Opposes Death Penalty Expansion

February 16, 2010

In a fairly dramatic development in Virginia, a bill to expand the death penalty to include accomplices (those who did not actually pull the trigger) was defeated in a Senate committee.  With a new Governor in place who was eager to sign the legislation, the bill was widely expected to pass, despite the fact that such an expansion would have greatly increased the risk of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions.

The drama came when former Virginia executioner Jerry Givens, who took part in 62 executions, testified against the bill.  Mr. Givens told the committee how traumatic the execution process is for those enlisted to participate.  Afterwards, he told the Washington Post:  “The people who pass these bills, they don’t have to do it. The people who do the executions, they’re the ones who suffer through it.”

Support for the death penalty is often inversely proportional to one’s distance from the realities of the process.  Those with first-hand experience see how traumatic and degrading it can be, while those on the sidelines cheerlead for more executions comfortable in the knowledge that they will never have to deal directly with the ugly consequences.