Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 53.1. Prisons and Other Methods of Correction
5/26/2020

Chapter 13. Death Sentences.

§ 53.1-232. Procedures for execution of death sentence; subsequent process.

A. Sentence of death shall not be executed sooner than thirty days after the sentence is pronounced. The court shall, in imposing such sentence, fix a day when the execution shall occur.

B. Whenever the day fixed for the execution of a sentence of death shall have passed without the execution of the sentence and it becomes necessary to fix a new date therefor, the circuit court which pronounced the sentence shall fix another day for the execution. The person to be executed need not be present but shall be represented by an attorney when such other day is fixed. A copy of the order fixing the new date of execution shall be promptly furnished by the clerk of the court making the order to the Director. The Director shall cause a copy of the order to be delivered to the person to be executed, and, if he is unable to read it, cause it to be explained to him at least ten days before the date fixed for such execution, and make return thereof to the clerk of the court which issued such order.

C. When the day fixed for the execution of a sentence of death has passed without the execution of the sentence by reason of a reprieve granted by the Governor, it shall not be necessary for the court to resentence the prisoner. The sentence of death shall be executed on the day to which the prisoner has been reprieved.

D. Should the condemned prisoner be granted a reprieve by the Governor, or obtain a writ of error from the Supreme Court of Virginia, or should the execution of the sentence be stayed by any other competent judicial proceeding, notice of such reprieve, writ of error or stay of execution shall be served upon (i) the Director, (ii) the warden or superintendent having actual custody of the prisoner, and (iii) the prisoner himself; the Director shall yield obedience to the same. In any subsequent proceeding, the mandate of the court having regard to the condemned prisoner shall be served upon the Director, the warden or superintendent having actual custody of the prisoner and upon the prisoner. Should the condemned prisoner be resentenced to death by the court, the proceedings shall be as hereinabove provided under the original sentence. Should a new trial be granted, such condemned prisoner shall be conveyed back to the place of trial by such officer or officers as the Director may direct.

Code 1950, §§ 19-274, 19.1-301, 53-316; 1960, c. 366; 1972, c. 145; 1978, c. 667; 1982, c. 636.

§ 53.1-232.1. When execution dates required.

In a criminal case where a sentence of death has been imposed, the trial court shall set an execution date when it is notified in writing by the Attorney General or the attorney for the Commonwealth, and the court finds that: (i) the Supreme Court of Virginia has denied habeas corpus relief or the time for filing a timely habeas corpus petition in that Court has passed without such a petition being filed, (ii) the Supreme Court of the United States has issued a final order disposing of the case after granting a stay to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia on habeas corpus, (iii) the United States Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of federal habeas corpus relief or the time for filing a timely appeal in that court has passed without such an appeal being filed, or (iv) the Supreme Court of the United States has issued a final order after granting a stay in order to dispose of the petition for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals.

The trial court shall conduct a proceeding to set the date within ten days after receiving the written notice from the Attorney General or the attorney for the Commonwealth. The execution date shall be set by the trial court in accordance with the provisions of §§ 53.1-232 and 53.1-234, but in any event shall be no later than sixty days after the date of the proceeding. Nothing in this provision shall prohibit the trial court from setting an execution date under circumstances other than those specified herein. Once an execution date is scheduled, a stay of execution may be granted by the trial court or the Supreme Court of Virginia only upon a showing of substantial grounds for habeas corpus relief.

1995, c. 503.

§ 53.1-233. Death chamber; who to execute death sentence.

The Director is hereby authorized and directed to provide and maintain a permanent death chamber and necessary appurtenant facilities within the confines of a state correctional facility. The death chamber shall have all the necessary appliances for the proper execution of prisoners by electrocution or by continuous intravenous injection of a substance or combination of substances sufficient to cause death. Any such substance shall be applied until the prisoner is pronounced dead by a physician licensed in the Commonwealth. All prisoners upon whom the death penalty has been imposed shall be executed in the death chamber. Each execution shall be conducted by the Director or one or more assistants designated by him.

The identities of persons designated by the Director to conduct an execution, and any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identities of such persons, including, but not limited to, their names, residential or office addresses, residential or office telephone numbers, and social security numbers, shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.), and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceeding unless good cause is shown.

Code 1950, §§ 19-275, 19-302, 53-317; 1960, c. 366; 1972, c. 145; 1978, c. 667; 1982, c. 636; 1989, c. 541; 1994, c. 921; 2007, cc. 652, 737.

§ 53.1-234. Transfer of prisoner; how death sentence executed; who to be present.

The clerk of the circuit court in which is pronounced the sentence of death against any person shall, after such judgment becomes final in the circuit court, deliver a certified copy thereof to the Director. Such person so sentenced to death shall be confined prior to the execution of the sentence in a state correctional facility designated by the Director. Prior to the time fixed in the judgment of the court for the execution of the sentence, the Director shall cause the condemned prisoner to be conveyed to the state correctional facility housing the death chamber.

The Director, or the assistants appointed by him, shall at the time named in the sentence, unless a suspension of execution is ordered, cause the prisoner under sentence of death to be electrocuted or injected with a lethal substance, until he is dead. The method of execution shall be chosen by the prisoner. In the event the prisoner refuses to make a choice at least 15 days prior to the scheduled execution, the method of execution shall be by lethal injection. Execution by lethal injection shall be permitted in accordance with procedures developed by the Department. At the execution there shall be present the Director or an assistant, a physician employed by the Department or his assistant, such other employees of the Department as may be required by the Director and, in addition thereto, at least six citizens who shall not be employees of the Department. In addition, the counsel for the prisoner and a clergyman may be present.

The Director may make and enter into contracts with a pharmacy, as defined in § 54.1-3300, or outsourcing facility, as defined in § 54.1-3401, for the compounding of drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection. Any such drugs provided to the Department pursuant to the terms of such a contract shall be used only for the purpose of carrying out an execution by lethal injection. The compounding of such drugs pursuant to the terms of such a contract (i) shall not constitute the practice of pharmacy as defined in § 54.1-3300; (ii) is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Medicine, or the Department of Health Professions; and (iii) is exempt from the provisions of Chapter 33 (§ 54.1-3300 et seq.) of Title 54.1 and the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.). The pharmacy or outsourcing facility providing such drugs to the Department pursuant to the terms of such a contract shall label each such drug with the drug name, its quantity, a projected expiration date for the drug, and a statement that the drug shall be used only by the Department for the purpose of carrying out an execution by lethal injection.

The identities of any pharmacy or outsourcing facility that enters into a contract with the Department for the compounding of drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection, any officer or employee of such pharmacy or outsourcing facility, and any person or entity used by such pharmacy or outsourcing facility to obtain equipment or substances to facilitate the compounding of such drugs and any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identities of such persons or entities, including their names, residential and office addresses, residential and office telephone numbers, social security numbers, and tax identification numbers, shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.), and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceeding unless good cause is shown.

Code 1950, §§ 19-276, 19.1-303, 53-318; 1960, c. 366; 1972, c. 145; 1978, c. 667; 1982, c. 636; 1989, c. 541; 1994, c. 921; 1996, c. 679; 2007, cc. 652, 737; 2016, c. 747.

§ 53.1-235. Certificate of execution of death sentence.

After execution of the death sentence as provided in this chapter, the physician in attendance shall perform an examination to determine that death has occurred. The Director shall certify the fact of the execution, appending the physician's death certificate thereto, to the clerk of the court by which such sentence was pronounced. The clerk shall file the certificate with the papers of the case and shall enter the same upon the records of the case.

Code 1950, § 53-319.1; 1978, c. 451; 1982, c. 636.

§ 53.1-236. Disposition of remains.

Upon application of the relatives of the person executed, the remains after execution shall be returned to their address and at their cost. If no such application is made within three days of the date of execution, the provisions of § 32.1-298 shall apply.

Code 1950, §§ 19-281, 19.1-307, 53-323; 1960, c. 366; 1972, c. 145; 1978, c. 614; 1982, c. 636.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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