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Bell receives execution date

End of the line for convicted murderer to come on Feb. 19

By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- For convicted killer Edward N. Bell, the end is now all but certain, and it will come Feb. 19.

A Winchester Circuit Court judge set the date for Bell's execution during a conference call between the Jamaican national's legal team and the office of Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Bell was convicted in 2001 of the 1999 murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook and sentenced to death.

He pursued a number of appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed his case earlier this year.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp signed the three-paragraph execution order Tuesday morning.

"This court hereby orders that the death sentence of Edward Nathaniel Bell be carried out on the 19th day of February 2009, at such time of day as the Director of the Department of Corrections shall fix," the order states.

All Virginia executions are carried out at 9 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center near Jarrat.

A member of Bell's legal team said they'd been expecting the date ever since the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed their client's final appeal in November.

Feb. 19 "is close to the latest time that it could be set by law," said James G. Connell, a member of Bell's appellate legal team.

Tuesday's order shifts the fight from the legal front to the world of politics, and the desk of Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

"Right now we're focused on a clemency petition," Connell said. The team will submit a written filing not unlike a legal brief to the governor in the near future.

The Virginia Constitution gives Kaine unfettered power to delay, commute or even wipe away Bell's death sentence.

He has shown a willingness to use that power in the past.

Kaine intervened just days before Bell's last scheduled execution date in April, postponing all executions in order to give the U.S. Supreme Court more time to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Bell's lawyers could file a second federal appeal, but a judge would be required to turn away the appeal unless his lawyers found new evidence that "could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence," according to federal law.

Even then, the new information would have to be so convincing that "no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the offense."

Bell has been even closer to execution before, but never with so few legal recourses.

He was originally scheduled to die in January 2005, but a U.S. District judge stepped in and stopped the execution pending a federal review of Bell's case.

That stay was lifted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, clearing the way for an April 2008 execution date.

Kaine's moratorium pushed the date back until July. Chief Justice John Roberts issued an indefinite stay not long afterward.

Failing action by Kaine or the courts, Bell is likely to be moved to Greensville either in late January or early February.

  • Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com

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