Posted April 3, 2008 | comments Leave a comment

Officer’s family jabs at Kaine’s promise

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — For more than eight years, the family of slain Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook family has sat quietly, letting the legal system work.

The family has declined interviews and, for the most part, avoided publicity regarding the death sentence of Edward N. Bell, the Jamaican national who was convicted in 2001 of killing Timbrook.

But when Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine stepped in Tuesday to stop all Virginia executions, including Bell’s April 8 appointment with the death chamber, the sergeant’s father, Richard Timbrook, decided he had something to say.

“[Kaine] had promised us, the voters of Virginia during the election, that he would stay out of this case, that he would not interfere in this case,” Richard Timbrook said.

Kaine has long been a staunch opponent of capital punishment, an issue that dogged him during the 2005 gubernatorial campaign.

But Kaine successfully deflected accusations that he wouldn’t carry out the death penalty — including charges from Ricky Timbrook’s widow Kelly — by promising to see executions carried out in accordance with the law regardless of his person misgivings.

Four people have been put to death during his term to date.

But Kaine issued a stay on all executions in the commonwealth on Tuesday, citing a need for the U.S. Supreme Court to come to a conclusion in Baze v. Rees, a Kentucky case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols.

That’s not to say that the Timbrook family was expecting the execution to go forward April 8. Far from it.

“I really believe that the [U.S.] Supreme Court would have stayed the case. There was almost a 98 percent assurance,” Richard Timbrook said. “That’s something we don’t know.”

All the family wanted was for the legal process to play out, to whatever conclusion it reached. Kaine’s decision short-circuited that system, according to Timbrook.

“We have done exactly what the law has asked us to do. No complaints or anything. We were down to the very last one, which was the Supreme Court,” he said.

“I can accept the ruling from the Supreme Court because I expected it,” he said. “I did not expect [Kaine] to come out and go over the Supreme Court.”

The stay calls into question Kaine’s trustworthiness on a host of other issues, Timbrook said. “The only thing I can say is if you break your word once, you’ll break it twice,” he said.

Timbrook also made an appeal directly to Kaine.

“We have struggled with this for nine years,” Timbrook said. “All you had to do was simply let the Supreme Court to make the decision, not you.”

“I only ask of you, why could you not have let the Supreme Court make their decision?” he said.

Kaine’s decision was in large part aimed at giving the families of murder victims some comfort by bringing some certainty to the equation, spokes-man Gordon Hickey said.

“The governor respects Mr. Timbrook’s position, and has deep sympathy for him and his family,” he said. Further, “the governor’s action was not about guilt or innocence.”

The execution was merely “delayed to a certain date. It was not clemency,” Hickey said.

Had the high court stepped in and stopped the execution, there’s no telling when the nine justices might have lifted the hold and allowed the execution to go forward, he said.

Kaine’s stay also means that families won’t be on the roller coaster of emotions that come with a last-minute stay, Hickey said.

Timbrook said he wasn’t convinced. “Nothing has ever been for the families. Everything has always been for the assailant,” Timbrook said. “For them to all the sudden worry about us, I’m sorry. I don’t believe it.”

Bell is now scheduled to be executed July 24.

* Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com

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