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Virginia Execution

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"Convicted killer Michael Lenz was executed by injection last night in Virginia's death chamber for fatally stabbing another inmate during a pagan religious gathering six years ago." Candace Rondeaux of the Washington Post has the story here. The Fourth Circuit's opinion on habeas is here. The Supreme Court's denial of a stay and certiorari, Justices Stevens and Ginsburg dissenting, is here. The District Court's dismissal of the injection suit is here.

Six years from crime to execution in a non-"volunteer" case is quite an accomplishment. This is the way it should be. That is long enough for a thorough consideration of the case, yet not so protracted as to dilute the deterrent effect and transform a death sentence into a nearly-life-expectancy sentence.

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Lenz is not an aberration in Virginia. Virginia routinely executes prisoners 5-7 years after convictions. And of the death sentences handed down by Virginia courts since the reinstatement of capital punishment, well over 50% of such sentences have actually been carried out. Virginia does not impose the death penalty enough in my view, but when it does impose it, the carrying out of the sentence is surer and swifter than any other state in the nation.

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