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Bill would allow electrocution in Virginia if no lethal drugs available

The House subcommittee on Militia, Police and Public Safety on Thursday backed legislation that would allow the use of the electric chair in the event lethal drugs were not available for execution, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

'Old Sparky' is the electric chair that Nebraska used for executions. It is housed in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska

Under the current law in the state of Virginia, a condemned inmate may choose to die either by lethal injection or the electric chair. If the inmate doesn't choose either option within 15 days of their scheduled execution, then by default, lethal injection is used.

The bill was sponsored by Del. Jackson H. Miller, R-Manassas, who said of House Bill 1052 "It's really a just a process issue. This doesn't expand the death penalty in any way, shape or form."

Miller explained the reasoning behind the bill, saying that this is a way to avoid a stay of execution when a prisoner has used up all their appeals, and the drugs used to administer a lethal injection are not available on the day of the execution.

Getting drugs to use in lethal injections has become a serious problem in the U.S. as manufacturers have become unwilling to provide them for that use. As an example, the state of Ohio executed Dennis McGuire, 53, for the rape and murder of a 22-year old pregnant woman on Thursday, using a two-drug cocktail because they could not get the drugs commonly used. It took McGuire 15 minutes to die, according to reporters.

Of course, opposition to the bill is expected, and has already come from the Virginia Catholic Conference. Virginia Peabody, the associate director told the panel her organization opposed the bill, saying "This would make Virginia the only state in the country that has electrocution as a default method of execution."

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