Diplomats write governor requesting review of killer's sentence; execution set for Thursday
By Garren Shipley -- Daily Staff Writer
The case of a Jamaican national set to be executed this week for the murder of a Winchester police officer is garnering international attention.
Diplomats from the European Union wrote a letter to Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine earlier this month, asking him to spare the life of Edward N. Bell.
Bell was convicted in 2001 of the 1999 murder of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky M. Timbrook. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday.
Petr Kolar, ambassador from the Czech Republic, which holds the union's rotating presidency, and other European diplomats asked Kaine to spare Bell's life on humanitarian grounds.
"In the present case, the European Union notes that there is an evidence that Mr. Bell may suffer from mental retardation," the diplomats wrote.
Both international standards and U.S. Supreme Court precedent prohibit executing the mentally retarded, a fact of which Virginia should be well aware, the diplomats note.
The commonwealth was on the losing side of the case that prohibited the practice in the U.S.: Atkins v. Virginia.
Atkins shares some "similarity with the case of Mr. Bell who may also suffer from 'mild' mental retardation," they wrote.
"On this ground, the European Union urges you, Governor, to review the sentence," the diplomats wrote.
Bell also should receive consideration for alleged violations of his rights under the Vienna Convention, they wrote.
"Furthermore, it has come to the attention of the European Union that the Virginia authorities failed to notify Mr. Bell of his right to contact a Jamaican Consulate for assistance at the time of his arrest," they wrote.
But the head of the U.S. mission to the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, Kyle Scott, rejected the EU's call late last week.
"As we have stated on many occasions here in this forum, the use of the death penalty in the United States is a decision of democratically elected governments at the federal and individual state levels," Scott told the group's permanent council in Vienna late last week.
"The people of the United States, acting through their freely elected representatives, have chosen, in most states, not to abolish the death penalty," Scott said.
Scott also politely chided the EU's interpretation of the facts of the case.
"While we very much respect the importance that the European Union attaches to this issue and the passion with which they hold those views, we would ask that the European Union's passion not overtake their checking of facts," he said.
"Edward Bell was a repeat offender who openly threatened a police officer with killing him and eventually carried out that threat, shooting the man at point blank range in the head," he said.
He also disputed the EU's claims about possible mental retardation.
"Mental retardation was never an issue in the Bell case," he said. "It was never alleged by his attorneys, was never mentioned by any of the advocacy groups following this case, nor put as a question at any step of the exhaustive judicial process in this case."
While no court has ever found Bell to be mentally retarded, the issue was the result of significant legal wrangling during Bell's appeals to the federal courts.
Winchester police also notified the Jamaican consulate of Bell's arrest over Bell's objections, Scott said.
Contact Garren Shipley at email@example.com