Warner commutes Lovitt sentence.

Governor Warner has commuted the sentence of Robin Lovitt, giving the man life in prison, rather than the death sentence. Lovitt’s death penalty was on the basis of one man’s testimony, who said he was only 80% sure that he had the right guy; evidence that may have exonerated him was destroyed by the state. Lovitt might be a terrible human being, but he shouldn’t be put to death.

Of course, there’s the political consideration. All other things being equal, perhaps Warner made this decision out of the recognition that it would help him get the Democratic nomination. Or, on the other hand, perhaps he made it knowing that it would make it more difficult for him to get elected, particularly having just witnessed Scott Howell’s attack on Tim Kaine on the matter of the death penalty.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “Warner commutes Lovitt sentence.”

  1. As a vocal opponent of the death penalty, I was pleased to hear this news, but I think it better explained by political calculus than a principled objection. I have a health respect for Governor Warner and I hope this may fuel the debate in a positive way.

  2. I’d prefer to give Warner the benefit of the doubt (which he deserves), and believe that he did this for the right reasons (i.e., not politically motivated in any way).

  3. I too am generally opposed to the death penalty (don’t get to excited you guys…it’s not because I thing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.) And I think if there were a case to commute, Levitt’s was the one. But politically, I think Warner screwed up. This will come back to haunt him in NH and IA…and definately SC. I’m not saying he was wrong, just, it’s gonna come back on him. On the other hand, this certainly paves the way for Tim Kaine to pardon all of death row. I know he wants to :)

    Still though, I feel bad for the victim’s mother. She wanted Levitt to die. I can understand that.

  4. Walter..I completely disagree with you. Warner made the right decision based on the facts and I hope we can move away from the notion that politicians have to always make important decisions based on political considerations. Let’s do a quick run down of the facts:
    (1) The decision to commute does not dispute his conviction per se but when the state, contrary to statutory requirements, improperly destroys evidence that has to be kept all through the defendant’s appeal process, we cannot be aboslutely sure that that evidence could not have cast doubt on the merits of the capital murder conviction
    (2) Warner has presided over multiple executions and supports the death penalty, so no one can say he had a change of heart or was looking at the dem primaries since that is not a litmus test for the nomination, unlike abortion, affirmative action etc
    (3) the folks who advocated for Lovitt’s sentence to be commuted were Ken Starr, Mark Early and I think Jerry Falwell..all right wing GOPers
    (4) Jim Gilmore, Warner’s GOP predecessor did the same thing during his term in office

    Pls don’t be intimidated by GOP hot air on wedge issues, one would only be dancing to thier tune. If they think they are going to make this a big deal to hurt Warner, I welcome them to try since it worked so well for Jerry Kilgore.

  5. Mark Warner is a personally ambitious politician, so I see no reason to give him the benefit of assuming that his presidential hopes played no role in this decision. Clearly, Warner commuted the Lovett death sentence at least partly to avoid the national press scrutiny attendant on its being the 1000th execution since the Supreme Court decision in 1974. It was the right decision for someone who supports the death penalty, because the Lovett case highlights many of the weakest points of the death penalty as policy.

  6. UVA Admit: Walt is short for Walton, not Walter. Better luck next time.

    Also, to say that “no one can say he had a change of heart or was looking at the dem primaries since that is not a litmus test for the nomination, unlike abortion, affirmative action etc” is silly. Why can’t someone say that? I promise you, any advantageous democrat thinking of runing for President just put that clipping in their opposition research file.

  7. Really? Geez. I’m sure no one could have figured that out Waldo. Walton was someone significant.

  8. Would you all grow up for Pete’s sake.

    Here is a copy of a letter I plan on sending to Governor Warner today. And let’s all just hope that nothing tragic ever happens to a loved one of any of us.

    Dear Governor Warner,

    Re: Congratulations, you’ve taken a stand

    I just wanted to congratulate you. By lacking the backbone to be the governor who presided over the 1000’th execution since 1976, you essentially sent a message to criminals that if it’s the right place and the right time, and if enough people are watching, you’ll get a free pass.

    “Congratulations, Robin Lovitt, you’re the 1000th customer. Here’s your ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

    Your motives are transparent. Unfortunately, not everyone in the commonwealth is protected by a security phalanx, such as the one that accompanies you. Perhaps next time you can ensure a little justice for the rest of us.

    Sincerely yours.

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