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March 18, 2010

Virginia electrocutes murderer who taunted prosecutors after first death sentence was reversed

As detailed in this local article, "Paul Warner Powell, whose taunting letter to prosecutors led to his conviction, was electrocuted tonight at 9:09 for the 1999 murder of a 16-year-old girl in her Manassas-area home."  Here are more details:

Powell's first capital-murder conviction was thrown out on appeal.  Believing he no longer could face a death sentence, he wrote Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert an abusive letter in which he admitted he attempted to rape Stacie and boasted about the crimes in detail.  The letter provided grounds for Powell to be tried again for capital murder and sentenced to death....

Powell chose to die in the electric chair instead of by injection.  Virginia death row inmates were given the choice on Jan. 1, 1995. If an inmate refuses to choose, injection becomes the default means.  Two cycles of electricity are used in executions, each lasting 90 seconds with a pause between them.  Since the choice was made available, 76 inmates have died by injections and now six by electrocution.

The execution was the 106th in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976.  Powell's death leaves 12 men and one woman sentenced to death in the state.

March 18, 2010 at 11:29 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I oppose the death penalty. I think the state should not be in the business of killing people. I think it's a waste of money and it's immoral. I also don't trust my government to administer the penalty fairly, nor do I trust the government to execute only the guilty. All that being said, I'm not going to shed a tear when monsters like this are executed.

Posted by: FPD | Mar 19, 2010 1:05:18 AM

FPD --

You are not alone. Slightly more than half the people who oppose the death penalty in principle supported it for McVeigh. There are some cases so appalling there's just no other alternative that even resembles justice.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2010 2:25:49 AM

Well, to be clear, I still oppose the death penalty, even in this case. If the decision were up to me, individuals like this would spend the rest of their life in prison. It's just that, for better or worse, this one is not going to keep me up at night.

Posted by: FPD | Mar 19, 2010 2:51:41 AM

Ms Whoberry seems like an exceptional person and hopefully she can find some peace.

Posted by: George | Mar 19, 2010 3:49:47 AM

Appalling lawyer incompetence. The killer has to do the job of the prosecutor to come to the correct result. The judge in the first trial should be made to pay with his job. The incompetent put a crazed killer back into circulation.

One notes, with equal disgust. Not one word from the abolitionists about the 17,000 extra-judicial executions their little darlings, the murderers, carry out each year. Reprehensible moral blind spot. Behind it all? Government make work sinecures generated by the murderer if kept alive, especially for left wing lawyers.

Posted by: Supreamcy Claus | Mar 19, 2010 6:36:05 AM

FPD, you make an interesting observation. I often wonder why people get so worked up about executing murderers. There are so many things to get worked up about in the world that killing a murderer seems pretty low on the totem pole. I think it has a lot more to do with moral preening that anything else.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 19, 2010 11:32:17 AM

Moral preening?

Several adjectives come quickly to mind: smug, glib, dismissive, loutish, (morally) stunted, etc.

But what's near the bottom of the totem pole for me is trying to reason with folks incapable of or disinterested in understanding the other side of what large numbers of sincere, intelligent, non-preening Americans view as a difficult moral issue.

Posted by: John K | Mar 19, 2010 2:54:54 PM

John K --

How very odd that you criticize retentionists as "incapable of or disinterested in understanding the other side," while, in the IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING line, you label those on the other side from you as "smug, glib, dismissive, loutish, (morally) stunted, etc."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 19, 2010 3:33:14 PM

The people of the Commonwealth of Virginia killed a human being. "Execution" is a euphemism. When each person goes to meet his maker he/she will be asked about the violation of the Commandment. God only knows who will be sitting in for St. Peter when that time comes for the haughty prosecutor.

Posted by: mpb | Mar 19, 2010 4:18:11 PM

God will understand, being a bloodthirsty prankster and mass annihilator of those who defy his laws. What he will not understand is the forbearance of the criminal lover lawyer protecting murderers, and allowing 17,000 extra-judicial executions every year with the certainty of planetary orbits. The collaboration of the abolitionist with this mass slaughter will be unforgiven. I am an atheist, but I pray the abolitionist rots in hell for his cold hearted collaboration with mass killing, all for a few lousy lawyer jobs.

Posted by: Supreamcy Claus | Mar 19, 2010 8:25:20 PM

mpb --

"The people of the Commonwealth of Virginia killed a human being."

We did it before with the Beltway sniper and, when just and lawful, we shall do it again.

"'Execution' is a euphemism."

No it isn't.

"When each person goes to meet his maker he/she will be asked about the violation of the Commandment."

How do you know that? Do you have a special pipeline to God? Far out!

"God only knows who will be sitting in for St. Peter when that time comes for the haughty prosecutor."

The haughty one is the killer's attorney who cooks up some phony defense for this atrocity and expects the jury to swallow it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 20, 2010 4:09:16 AM

This blog is about sentencing. This guy gets killed by the Commonwealth. Maybe justice does not end its course at this point. Which is the point of my previous comment. We live in a country which has skirmishes over whether the county government can post the Ten Commandments at a public courthouse. It is perhaps lame to believe in the posting of the Commandments and then violate the most important one in the same courthouse. Going to meet your maker is a time of "sentence". So, perhaps my comment was intended to be a bit facetious but one has to think through the contradictions of living in a society which has a huge segment believing in gospel. And the comment should be cause rethinking the policy of striking jurors from panels in death cases "for cause" where they believe: Thou Shalt Not Kill. All of the citizens of Virginia have responsibility when the state kills in their name.

Posted by: mpb | Mar 20, 2010 11:51:12 AM

Bill: "How very odd that you criticize retentionists (plural?) as "incapable of or disinterested in understanding the other side," while, in the IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING line, you label those (plural?) on the other side from you as "smug, glib, dismissive, loutish, (morally) stunted, etc."

I wasn't criticizing retentionists. I was responding to an impudent remark by one retentionist whose certitude on the question compelled him to rule out as frivolous any alternative views on the matter.

I object to the state killing inmates on my behalf with my tax money. Yet I understand the anger that compels others to cheer on those killings, which is why I don't dismiss the lot of them as smug, glib, dismissive or morally stunted.

I reserve those pejoratives for foes who write off my views on the issue as moral preening.

See the difference there, Bill?

Posted by: John K | Mar 20, 2010 1:01:09 PM

John K, I don't doubt that some people have sincerely held opinions about capital punishment. My point about moral preening regards the vehemence with which some capital punishment opponents operate. The use of over the top language and the deliberate slanting of the facts are two examples. It cannot be because capital punishment, in the grand scheme of things, is really that big of a deal. We execute 50-60 people per year in a nation of 300 million.

A murderer gets repaid in kind, and abolitionists scream about how society is being shredded. That, John K, is moral preening.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 20, 2010 1:13:50 PM

John K --

It's not anger that is the principal driving force of retentionism. It's the considered belief, shared by the majority of a generous and benevolent nation, that there are some murders so vile, cruel, vicious and heartless that only the DP is justice. It is also the considered belief, supported by the majority of recent studies, that the DP's deterrent value saves more innocent lives than even the most outlandish abolitionist claims it has taken.

Considered belief vs. anger. See the difference, John?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 20, 2010 1:52:06 PM

The haughty one is the killer's attorney who cooks up some phony defense for this atrocity and expects the jury to swallow it.

Defense counsel have a constitutional obligation to put the state to the test, irrespective of whether or not the defendant is guilty. Do you agree or disagree? I'll stipulate that Nix v. Whiteside is a correct ruling.

Posted by: JC | Mar 20, 2010 2:19:19 PM

i'll have to give you that one SC god does have a temper! he or she or it! got fed up once and blew two cities off the map. the next time 99.99999999999999% of the population of the ENTIRE PLANET went!

so i'm pretty sure two-faced lier's criminal or otherwise are in deep you know what when the time COMES.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 20, 2010 4:29:36 PM

Rod: Ironic. The church that killed millions to impose its orthodoxy, and to seize their properties, including millions of native peoples, now opposes the death penalty. Thou shall not kill does not apply to anyone with assets to seize for their blasphemy.

The lawyer taking on their business model is disgusting. The lawyer traitor has a church looking court, robes, gavels, standing up, oaths, plea bargains, parsing word for word, inscrutable language, a ritual and fee for every occasion of life. The lawyer traitors central doctrines are from Scholasticism, intent, foreseeability, truth detection by using the gut feelings of 12 strangers. Lastly, the word reasonable. Why is that the central word of the law. Why not logical, mainstream, average, advantageous, and the dozens of possibly more valid words? Why? Because it means, in accordance with the New Testament, the most reliable guide to moral decision making. The lawyer is in out of control insurrection against the Establishment Clause every time those ideas are brought up.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 20, 2010 6:35:57 PM

Latin. A foreign language of a church should make any legal utterance containing it void for illegality. Not voidable, void, being per se treason against the Establishment Clause.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 20, 2010 6:39:36 PM

nice. i know i have to laugh every time i see the pope doing one of his things from the vatican. with that great big spire behind him. have alwasy though it was funny that they worship god under a spire that came from an egyptin SUN GOD's temple.

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 21, 2010 2:32:23 PM

federalist, you could say the same about flag-burning. occassionally, a few far out idiots burn a flag to make a political point that will have no real-world influence. yet many, many people get up in arms about this. some might call this moral preening, or wildly disproportionate hysteria considering the limited, obscure nature of the "harm" (incinerating a piece of dyed fabric).

Except, burning a flag is an extraordinarily symbolic act, and whether we allow it or punish or tolerate it or praise it or condemn it says a lot about our core values as a society and as individuals. However you feel about that issue, it is not unreasonable for people to devote substantial amounts of time thinking about and debating it.

And so it is when the State attempts to extinguish a life in the name of its people. Among other things, such action raises fundamental questions about how far we can trust our government to be both competent and evenhanded. These are questions worth caring about, whether or not you give a hoot about the death of a murderer (assuming the adjudication of guilt is reliable -- which is very often, but not always, the case) you have never met.

Posted by: Observer | Mar 23, 2010 11:34:41 AM

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