News| Death Penalty | Death Row Inmate Spared at Last Minute

News| Death Penalty | Death Row Inmate Spared at Last Minute

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Nov. 30, 2005 – A day before a Virginia man was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection, Gov. Mark Warner (D) stepped in to spare his life.

Robin Lovitt, 42, was set to become the 1,000th person to be executed Wednesday since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.  However, his date with death was cancelled late Tuesday when Warner granted him clemency. 

During Warner's four years in office, 11 men have been executed. This is the first time he's granted clemency to a death row inmate. 

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Warner said evidence from Lovitt's trial had been improperly destroyed, depriving the defense of the opportunity to subject the material to the latest in DNA testing, The Associated Press reported.

"The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," he told AP.

Just last week, The Houston Chronicle reported that a Texas man, Ruben Cantu, might have been wrongly executed more than a dozen years ago after the only witness to a murder recanted his confession, and a co-defendant said he allowed his friend to be falsely accused under police pressure.

Lovitt's death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a 1988 pool hall robbery in Arlington, Va. Lovitt admitted grabbing the cash, but insisted he was not the killer, AP reported.

In fact, when initial DNA tests were performed, the results came back questionable.  And in 2001, a court clerk destroyed much of the evidence in the case, including the pair of scissors. Virginia has a law that requires preservation of DNA material in death sentence cases.

The 1,000th execution is now set for early Friday in North Carolina, where Kenneth Lee Boyd is scheduled to die for killing his estranged wife and her father.

Did Gov. Warner do the right thing by commuting Lovitt's sentence?  Click on the link to the left and take our poll so your voice can be heard.

Written by BET-Staff


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