Posted April 2, 2008 | comments Leave a comment

Local legislators feel that Kaine broke promise

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine broke a promise to the voters of Virginia when he stopped the execution of Edward N. Bell on Tuesday, according to local legislators.

Kaine pushed Bell’s execution date back to July 24, and said he’d do the same for any other executions scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court decides in Baze v. Rees, a Kentucky case over the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols.

Bell was convicted in 2001 of the 1999 murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, and sentenced to die. He has exhausted all of his appeals, save one to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kaine has yet again broken a campaign promise, said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, a Frederick County prosecutor.

“We have a well-defined statutory scheme and method for carrying out executions Virginia. There’s no reason why this particular defendant who killed a police officer in the line of duty should be spared his fate,” Gilbert said.

“I see no reason why the governor would stay this execution unless he’s looking for a reason to declare a moratorium, which apparently he is.”

Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, was less charitable, noting that Kaine’s decision was likely “politically motivated,” possibly in an effort to make Kaine more attractive to Democrats who might consider him for higher office.

“People took him at his word when he said he would not change the status of how the law is carried out in Virginia,” Holtzman Vogel said.

Kaine reiterated his pledge after a forum in Front Royal last month.

“I pledged to the voters of Virginia that I would enforce the law about the death penalty, which I don’t believe in,” Kaine said in March. “I have personal opposition, but I do take an oath to uphold the law, and I do and I have, and I will continue to.”

But Virginia law hasn’t changed, and wouldn’t change until the high court hands down its decision, Holtzman Vogel said. Until then, Kaine was obligated to keep the commonwealth’s executions on track, she said.

“This is a blatant, blatant rebuke of that position, period,” she said. “That was a pledge you made to all Virginia, and you should be bound by that position.”

Timbrook’s widow, Kelly, warned voters that Kaine wouldn’t carry out the death penalty during the 2005 gubernatorial campaign, added Del. Clifford L. “Clay” Athey, R-Front Royal.

She went so far as to do a television ad for the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore to express her concerns.

“She feared that if he were elected he would not carry out the death penalty against Mr. Bell,” Athey said.

“I think that Mrs. Timbrook today could probably say to an awful lot of people in the commonwealth of Virginia that voted for Governor Kaine, ‘I told you so,’” he said.

* Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com

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