On Wednesday, March 25, Gov. Northam signed into law an act which abolished capital punishment in this commonwealth.
He made quite a production of it and was obviously very proud of his achievement.
There is even a photo on Page 1 of the Times, showing him standing next to an electric chair which had not been used as such since 1984, all executions after that date being by lethal injection--a bit of alcohol on the arm, to prevent infection, then a little needle-prick, and sweet dreams.
I have heard and read all the arguments against the death penalty, and will concede that the morality of taking a life for a life is still a matter for grave debate.
But I have never, to this day, heard a rational answer to this question: In a state which has abolished capital punishment by any means, and in which the maximum sentence is life without parole, what do you do with a prisoner who is too dangerous to be allowed to live?
Shut him away in solitary confinement, hand in his meals on the end of a stick?
I rather expect that the ACLU would be in court, bleating of "cruel and inhumane" measures. And if he were to smile and say, "Go ahead--give me another life sentence. Next week, or the week after, maybe, I'll kill the Warden, or the Chaplain, who comes to pray over me. Nothing you can do to stop me."
Remember Dr. Hannibal in "Silence of the Lambs"? They had him in a special cage, but he escaped, killing two guards on the way.
Something similar has happened in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty.
One prisoner, a defrocked priest serving time for sexual assault, was strangled by another, doing life for murder.
Seems that a life sentence was not enough to keep him from a crime in prison. Now Virginia has voluntarily cast aside the last defense against murder behind the bars. Well done, Governor, and well done, Legislature.
Richard Raymond III, Roanoke