Virginia Governor commutes 1,000th US execution

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Virginia Governor Mark Warner commuted the death sentence Tuesday of convicted murderer Robin Lovitt, preventing him from becoming the 1,000th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Lingering doubt over Lovitt's guilt was a key factor in Warner's decision. Lovitt's sentence has now been reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

This is the first time Warner has granted clemency in his four years in office. All eleven previous clemency petitions have been denied. Warner chose this petition to be his first, and likely last, granted, noting that clemency should only be used in an "exceptional circumstance. Among these are circumstances in which the normal and honored processes of our judicial system do not provide adequate relief - circumstances that, in fact, require executive intervention to reaffirm public confidence in our justice system" [1].

Lovitt was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a pool hall manager. His defense team, including former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, argued that DNA tests could have exonerated Lovitt, but weren't performed due to a mistake by a court clerk which resulted in key evidence being thrown away after the trial.

Due to the commution of Lovitt's sentence, Kenneth Boyd, who is scheduled to be executed in North Carolina on Friday, will likely become the 1,000th person executed since 1976.