[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, GA., PENN., OHIO, VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 9 00:26:53 CST 2005
Convicted serial rapist set to die Wednesday for killing teacher
The kids who were second-graders in 1993 in suburban Houston's Klein
Independent School District are out of high school now, in college or
elsewhere, but the handwritten notes some of them scrawled back then still
reveal the emotional scars of that school year.
Their teacher at Benfer Elementary School, Karen Gail Crawford, had been
attacked the Wednesday before Easter outside her apartment in Tomball in
northwest Harris County. Two days later, she died.
The man convicted of killing her, Charles Daniel Thacker, is set for
lethal injection Wednesday evening. He would be the 17th condemned Texas
inmate put to death this year.
"I'd forgotten until I opened the file and started pulling out these
children's notebook papers," said Joe Owmby, the Harris County district
attorney who prosecuted Thacker. "It brought all that back to me, how
devastating it was for them."
Prosecutors declined to release the contents of the notes, which never
were in evidence in the case, except to say they were "expressions of
emotion" that illustrated the children's sadness in the aftermath of their
26-year-old teacher's strangling during an attempted rape, according to
Jack Roady, an assistant district attorney.
Thacker, now 37, had a history of sexual assaults. At the time of the
April 1993 attack on Crawford he'd been out of prison about eight months
after serving less than 4 years of 2 12-year sentences for robbery and
Thacker's lawyers were in the courts trying to get a reprieve so more
sophisticated DNA tests not available at the time of his trial could be
conducted on evidence.
"Thacker has maintained his innocence throughout the process," Robin
Norris, one of his attorneys, said while acknowledging Thacker's "fairly
long history as a sexual predator."
Another appeal challenged Texas execution procedures, contending prison
authorities should ensure the condemned inmate is unconscious before the
actual lethal drugs, which they argue are unconstitutionally painful, are
And a third appeal questioned whether Thacker's death sentence should be
reconsidered in light of a new state law that took effect Sept. 1 that
allows capital murder juries to consider life without parole for offenders
"Texas has effectively abolished the death penalty for everybody except
those people who can't be safely confined in prison," lawyer Richard
Bourke said, referring to jury deliberations about whether a capital
murder convict would be a future danger. Thacker, he said, "has never been
a problem in prison."
The Loraine County, Ohio, native was arrested in the hours after the
attack on Crawford, who was dragged into a restroom near the central
mailbox rack at her apartment complex. A passer-by who spotted a key
dangling from Crawford's open mailbox prompted a search for her.
Crawford's car with her dog inside wasn't far away.
A maintenance worker found the woman's restroom nearby locked but was
surprised to hear a male voice from inside. When the door burst open, the
worker got a blast of pepper spray from the fleeing man, whom he later
identified as Thacker.
Other residents who chased the man as he ran into a wooded area also said
it was Thacker. Crawford was found unconscious in the restroom. Police
using tracking dogs found Thacker hiding in a yard.
"I was there that night or could say I was near there in the back behind
the apartments in a rich neighborhood of homes," Thacker said on a Web
site where condemned inmates seek pen pals. "I was up to no good with two
others guys looking for stuff to steal and sell."
There was no evidence of others involved. Thacker's truck was found in the
apartment complex parking lot, and witnesses reported seeing him loitering
in the area before the attack.
On his Web site, Thacker suggested Crawford accidentally died because of
At least 6 victims, ranging in age from 13 to 64, testified at his trial
how he sexually assaulted them, or attempted to, including a Tomball woman
abducted while she was picking up mail at her apartment complex.
2 more condemned Texas inmates are scheduled to die next week and another
in December in the nation's busiest death chamber. At least 5 have
execution dates for early next year.
(source: KRIS TIV News)
END OF THE TRAIL----CAPTURED KILLER BACK HOME; Thompson will be under
guard 'anywhere he goes,' police say
Handcuffed from behind and in leg irons, condemned murderer Charles Victor
Thompson was back in Harris County late Monday, 4 days after a brazen
escape in which he managed to walk past at least 4 guards and out the
doors of the Harris County Jail.
Thompson, whose manhunt ended Sunday night outside a liquor store in
Shreveport, La., arrived in Harris County Monday night. Officials said he
will be returned to a facility in Harris County, but would not say which
one. Wherever he is housed, officials said, he can expect 24-hour
"If there's a security measure, he will be subjected to it," said Lt. John
Martin, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Department. "He will
be escorted anywhere he goes ... and if they put him in an attorney booth,
he will not be left alone. We will have a deputy standing outside."
Cindy Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, said
Thompson had been picked up by Harris County officials around 4:30 p.m.
Thompson, who is described as "charming" by people who know him, had shown
his ability to remain calm among law enforcement officials even before his
escape. Leaving from the Caddo Correctional Center early Monday, the
convicted killer of 2 flashed a smile at television cameras.
Earlier in the day, Thompson waived his rights to be represented by a
lawyer and to resist extradition.
The 35-year-old Tomball resident faced state District Judge Ramona Emanuel
about 11 a.m. in a videoconference from a holding cell at the Correctional
He wore a red jumpsuit, which indicates a high-risk prisoner, said Caddo
Parish Assistant District Attorney Dhu Thompson, who is not related to the
When asked by Emanuel if he was Charles Victor Thompson and if he wanted a
hearing to confirm his identity, Thompson replied, "I don't think that is
in dispute. I'm not going to waste taxpayers' money in Louisiana.
"I understand my rights," he told the judge. "I'm waiving counsel as well
Thompson told the judge that the last grade of school he had completed was
the 11th and that he had earned a GED after dropping out. He said he can
read and write and that he fully understood his rights.
Thompson, under a death sentence for the 1998 murders of his ex-girlfriend
Dennise Hayslip and her new boyfriend, Darren Cain, was awaiting transfer
to death row last Thursday when he slipped away from the Harris County
Jail at 1200 Baker.
He had freed himself from handcuffs, slipped into street clothes and
convinced jailers he was an investigator for the Texas Attorney General's
A tip Sunday to the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force led Shreveport
police and the U.S. Marshal's Service to the liquor store, where an
intoxicated Thompson was found on a bicycle near a pay phone in front of
Sgt. Allen Johnson, an 18-year veteran of the Shreveport Police
Department, said Thompson told officers, "I don't want to go back," as
they arrested him.
"But he seemed relieved as he sat on the curb waiting for processing after
the arrest," Johnson said.
Knew he was on TV show
Sitting on the curb, Thompson told police he knew he had been featured on
the TV program America's Most Wanted and asked who had phoned in the tip
on his whereabouts, Johnson said.
He said Thompson, wearing a blue denim shirt, looked tired and resigned to
"He knew it was up," said Deputy Marshal Mickey Rellin, a member of the
Western Louisiana Fugitive Task Force.
Thompson's breath smelled of liquor and the sudden arrival of officers
with their shotguns and handguns drawn likely was a sobering sight for
"I would imagine he was drunker before we showed up," said Rellin. "We
Inside Daiquiri Unlimited, a liquor store in a small strip shopping center
on 70th Street in Shreveport's Cedar Grove area, one block off Interstate
49, Jebran Siddiqui was working at his family's business.
The 18-year-old said he noticed Thompson stumbling around in the parking
lot, talking loudly despite being alone.
Siddiqui said he called 911 because he was afraid Thompson might come into
the store and cause trouble. He said he grabbed a pistol and went to the
front door to watch Thompson, but soon saw a man approach Thompson with a
Arrest goes down
At that point, Siddiqui said, he thought the group was about to rob the
store. He said he told his employees to go to the back, but the men in the
parking lot then yelled to him, "Police! Police! Go back inside!"
When Thompson saw the first officer approach with a shotgun, he began
running away but soon gave up, Siddiqui said. "He looked like he wasn't
going to put up a fight. It was like he was saying, 'Whatever. Do what you
The internal investigation into how Thompson escaped continues, but
officials said three people affiliated with anti-death penalty groups who
had visited Thompson before his escape were not involved in it.
Authorities are also trying to determine how he got to Shreveport, some
200 miles from Houston.
INMATE'S CAPTURE----Lawyer recounts his visit to jail; A prisoner walked
in during his meeting with Thompson
A Houston lawyer who met with condemned killer Charles Victor Thompson
before his escape last week said another inmate surprised him by walking
into the unlocked visitor's booth minutes before.
Houston attorney James Rytting also said that before leaving the second
floor at the Harris County Jail facility at 1200 Baker, he told deputies
that he was through with Thompson, who apparently was allowed to linger in
the visiting room.
Thompson later left the room without handcuffs and in civilian clothes.
Thompson walked out of the Baker Street jail last Thursday after telling
deputies he was with the Attorney General's Office and flashed an
identification badge. The badge later was discovered to be his state
prison ID, on which he had covered the word "offender."
Thompson, who was convicted of the 1998 slayings of his ex-girlfriend and
her boyfriend, was recaptured Sunday night outside a liquor store in
The 35-year-old Thompson, who had been sentenced to die the week before,
was awaiting transfer back to Texas' death row in Huntsville when he
Rytting's recollections Monday shed more light on security lapses that
county officials said played a role in Thompson's escape.
Rytting said he was waiting in the attorney-inmate visitation room when an
unescorted inmate walked in on the other side of the glass. The inmate
said he needed an attorney and asked Rytting for a business card, which
the lawyer said he slid underneath the glass partitioning in the room.
"He just popped in there," Rytting said of the inmate. "That door was open
in there and people could go in."
After getting the business card, the inmate left, the lawyer said.
Lt. John Martin, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office,
confirmed that the door should have been locked.
Martin said the first inmate could have been among those allowed to clean
cells, distribute meals or handle laundry under a deputy's supervision. He
did not say why the inmate was allowed to enter the visitor's booth
without an escort.
"The attorney booth should be locked where you can't enter without a
deputy using a key to open it," Martin said. "We've been saying all along
that was one of the procedures not followed."
Rytting said someone, whom he did not notice, escorted Thompson into the
small visitor's room.
Martin said only deputies handle death row inmates.
Rytting said Thompson had called his firm, Philip Hilder & Associates, and
requested representation for an appeal of his death sentence.
The meeting, Rytting said, was a "normal, standard and unexceptional
attorney-client visit." He said Thompson was engaged in the legal issues
of his case and did not appear anxious or distracted.
Rytting said he ended up declining Thompson's request for representation.
After the meeting, Rytting said, he left Thompson, walked over to the
front desk and told the guards he was leaving and alerted them that
Thompson was ready to be taken back to his cell.
More than an hour passed before Thompson was reported missing.
Sheriff's Office internal affairs investigators will press Thompson for
details about his escape. Thompson returned to Houston Monday night.
The death row inmate will be more closely monitored this time, Martin
"If there's a security measure, he will be subjected to it," he said. "He
will be escorted anywhere he goes ... and if they put him in an attorney
booth, he will not be left alone. We will have a deputy standing outside."
Several county jail employees have been questioned by investigators,
including those who may have had only a slight brush with Thompson, Martin
"We have already spoken with a number of employees and we still have
several more to interview," Martin said. "We're interviewing every
possible employee that may have possibly come in contact with him or been
responsible for one of the many lapses we've been discussing."
Some deputies may be punished in the escape
Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas, who was recovering from eye surgery
when a condemned killer escaped from the county jail, returned to work
Monday and said some deputies may face disciplinary action.
Charles Victor Thompson escaped from the 1200 Baker St. jail early
Thursday afternoon and got past some deputies by flashing a state prison
ID badge and saying he was an investigator. Those deputies and others are
being questioned, Thomas said.
"Certainly, there was negligence on our part," he said. "We are
embarrassed by (the escape). But we are going to determine what happened
and take corrective action."
"We have policies, and if you violate them, you can be disciplined," he
Thomas underwent surgery to repair a detached retina several days before
"This is the 1st day I've been back," Thomas said. "I was confined to bed
for several days. It was kind of frustrating - you can't be here and take
part in what's taking place."
Thomas relied on phone calls from subordinates to keep current on the
search for the death row inmate, who was captured late Sunday outside a
Shreveport, La., liquor store.
Thomas said his efforts to participate fully in his office's investigation
have been hampered by difficulty reading during his recovery.
He drove himself to work Monday, the 1st time he's been behind the wheel
since the surgery. It may be 2 months before vision in the affected eye
returns to normal, he said.
(source for all: Houston Chronicle)
LeJeune accepts plea deal in death penalty case
An accused drug dealer on trial for a 1997 murder and decapitation pleaded
guilty Tuesday in Fulton Superior Court.
Michael LeJeune, 27, facing his 2nd trial for the murder of Ronnie Harris,
39, dodged the death penalty by agreeing to accept a life sentence without
The grisly case hit a snag Monday.
Lead defense attorney Brian Steel asked to be removed from the case Monday
after spending seven years on the case. Steel's reason: a conversation he
had with accused killer Michael LeJeune over the weekend.
Jurors were kept out of the courtroom as Steel told the judge and
prosecutors that his conversation with LeJeune at the Fulton County Jail
prevented him from continuing on the case. Steel did not elaborate because
conversations between clients and their attorneys are supposed to be kept
confidential unless both agree otherwise.
Superior Court Judge Constance Russell allowed Steel to withdraw from the
case. Steel's co-counsel, Bud Siemon, took over as lead attorney.
This is the 2nd jury for LeJeune. His first trial was under way at the
time of the unrelated March 11 courthouse shootings. The killings rattled
some jurors, and LeJeune successfully urged Russell to grant a mistrial.
LeJeune, an accused drug dealer, is charged with shooting Dunwoody
resident Ronnie Davis, 39, and dismembering him in LeJeune's small Roswell
The state's key witness, LeJeune's former girlfriend Kelly Anand, has
testified that LeJeune kept the victim's head in a bucket of cement for
days and took it back and forth from their Roswell apartment to his
parents' lakeside home in Buford. The head has never been found.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Court: Death row inmate entitled to new trial
A death row inmate previously convicted for killing his estranged wife and
his stepdaughter is entitled to a new trial because Georgia Bureau of
Investigation agents withheld crucial information from his attorneys, the
Georgia Supreme Court ruled.
Justices unanimously ruled Monday that Willie Palmer's convictions and
death sentence must be reversed. Palmer was convicted of killing Brenda
Palmer and her daughter, Christine Jenkins, in 1995.
"It is irrelevant that a police agency may have possessed the favorable
evidence without the knowledge of the prosecutor; the law places the
responsibility and ultimate burden on the prosecutor for the failure to
provide the favorable evidence to the defendant," justices wrote in the
In April, a state court judge also overturned Willie Palmer's murder
conviction, saying the trial was corrupted by the concealment of a payment
to a key prosecution witness.
In the trial, witness Randy Waltower said he saw Willie Palmer's car near
the murder scene on the night the 2 women were killed.
Waltower was paid $500 for that information. Neither he nor the GBI
revealed that detail in the trial.
"Palmer does not have to show that he would have been acquitted if he had
been able to impeach Waltower with his financial motive for testifying
against him; he simply must show that the state's 'evidentiary
suppression' undermines the confidence in the outcome of the trial,"
supreme court justices said.
(source: Associated Press)
Conviction leads to rare death-penalty phase
Demetrius Fiorentino killed a man at a crack house. Only 3 people in
Chesco have faced execution.
After deliberating about 17 hours over three days, a Chester County Court
jury yesterday convicted a Coatesville man of 1st-degree murder,
triggering a rare death-penalty phase in his trial.
Demetrius Fiorentino, 31, showed no reaction as the 6 men and 6 women
found him guilty of most of the charges stemming from the April 15, 2004,
slaying of 18-year-old Joel Taylor of Queens, N.Y. Several of Fiorentino's
relatives began crying.
After listening to reasons why Fiorentino should be executed, Theresa
Winkey, a grandmother of one of Fiorentino's children, shook her head.
"It's not fair. He doesn't deserve what they're doing to him," she said.
Judge Phyllis R. Streitel told the jurors that they must weigh the
aggravating and mitigating factors presented by both sides to determine
whether Fiorentino should be sentenced to life in prison or the death
Assistant District Attorney Lorraine B. Finnegan, whose presentation will
continue today, urged the jury to consider Fiorentino's violent criminal
history, which began with an armed robbery when he was 17.
Zelia Taylor, the victim's mother, testified about the death's impact.
"The day Joel died, a part of me died with him," she said, adding that her
other 2 sons were also devastated.
After the proceeding, she said she believed Fiorentino had decided his own
"The jury only took into account the evidence he provided," she said. "I'm
praying for him and his family."
Defense attorney Scott Godshall said he planned to offer a psychological
evaluation that would detail Fiorentino's impairments at the time of the
crime. However, Godshall added that the testimony would not be used to
justify "inexcusable" conduct.
During 8 days of dramatic and often contradictory testimony, witnesses,
many of them drug addicts, said Taylor had been delivering cocaine to a
Lumber Street crack house when Fiorentino and his codefendant, Sabin
Suber, shot him during a robbery.
Suber, 51, of Coatesville, was convicted Sept. 16 of second-degree murder,
robbery, conspiracy and related offenses. He faces at least a life term
In the last 20 years, only three defendants have received the death
penalty in Chester County, First Assistant District Attorney Patrick
Carmody said. All remain on death row.
Dennis Miller was convicted of raping and stabbing his wife, Sherry, to
death in her Chatham home in November 1995. Darrick Hall was sentenced to
death for fatally shooting Donald R. Johnson, 59, in the head in December
1993 during a robbery at a Coatesville Laundromat. Robert B. Hughes was
convicted of murdering Jean Reider, 41, of Newark, Del., and Charles P.
Hegarty, 46, of West Chester, during a McDonald's restaurant robbery in
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Ohio jury recommends death penalty for murderer of Canadian student, 2
A jury that convicted a man of killing his live-in girlfriend, her
7-year-old son and a university student from Canada recommended Tuesday
that he get the death penalty.
The actual sentence for James Trimble, 45, will be up to Judge John Enlow,
who scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 16. The judge can sentence
Trimble to death or life in prison. Enlow said he will allow statements
from the victims' families and friends to be heard then. The judge earlier
imposed a gag order on lawyers in the case.
Trimble appeared calm as the sentence was announced and jurors were asked
to confirm their decision. As he was led from the courtroom by sheriff's
deputies, Trimble pumped his right fist in the air, looked at his mother
and said, "I love you, Mom."
Prosecutors said Trimble killed the trio in a rampage that began over his
girlfriend's threats to leave him. He was found guilty of three counts of
aggravated murder Oct. 25.
Trimble killed Renee Bauer, 42, and her son, Dakota, on Jan. 21 and then
ran to the nearby home of Kent State University student Sarah Positano,
22, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Positano was held hostage in her apartment
before she was shot in the neck the next morning.
"I live with the fact I killed them," Trimble told the jury Monday. "Renee
and Dakota loved me more than probably anyone in my life other than my
mother. I destroyed their lives and futures. The pain to their families
will never be healed."
(source: Associated Press)
Taft to delay Spirko execution
Gov. Bob Taft will delay death-row inmate John Spirko's execution so that
23-year-old evidence can be tested for DNA.
Spirko had been scheduled to die next Tuesday for the 1982 slaying of
rural postmaster Betty Jane Mottinger. But on Monday, Ohio Attorney
General Jim Petro requested a 60-day reprieve to allow time for the
testing that Spirko's lawyers have been seeking.
A Taft spokesman said the governor would grant the reprieve. A new
execution date has not been set.
Spirko's case has been dogged by questions about the quality of both the
evidence and the investigation. Spirko claims he had nothing to do with
the crime. Petro's office maintains Spirko was justly convicted.
While the Ohio Parole Board has twice voted to recommend that Taft deny
clemency, 3 dissenting members said there's too much doubt to execute
Mottinger was kidnapped from her Elgin, Ohio, post office in August 1982.
Her body, stabbed more than a dozen times and wrapped in a
paint-splattered shroud, was found 6 weeks later in a soybean field.
Spirko's lawyers renewed their call for DNA testing last month after a
former painter, who implicated his boss years ago in the crime, passed a
Former painter John Willier has said he recognized the shroud as a
dropcloth he and his boss, Dale Dingus, used while painting a house in
Findlay the summer Mottinger was killed. Spirko's lawyers also want the
paint from the cloth tested against the paint on the Findlay house.
Dingus, now in a Louisiana prison for rape, has denied any involvement in
Petro told Spirko's lawyers in a letter that he is a proponent of DNA
Given the facts in the Spirko case, Petro said, he doesn't believe the
testing will prove guilt or innocence, but wants to make test results
available to Taft and others.
Petro's skepticism about the results was echoed Monday by Edward Blake, a
forensic scientist and national expert on DNA testing. In this case, Blake
said, DNA testing sounds like "nothing more than a fishing expedition that
has a very low chance of success."
He said it's possible to extract DNA from biological samples 23 years
after a crime. The question is whether those samples would be relevant.
The key piece of physical evidence in this case - the shroud, or painting
tarp - could contain biological material from someone completely
unconnected to the crime, Blake said.
But Spirko's lawyer, Alvin Dunn, said testing the shroud could yield
"If this reveals that it's got DNA evidence of persons who have no
connection to John Spirko, we believe it really does indicate that John
Spirko had nothing to do with this crime," he said.
(source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Execution of Spirko put off for DNA tests---Attorneys for John G. Spirko
Jr. say DNA evidence will clear him
More than 23 years after her death, the tarp or shroud used to wrap Betty
Jane Mottinger's body may yield clues to her killer.
At the least, DNA testing - the cutting edge of modern forensics and the
rage of television crime dramas - will extend the life of John G. Spirko
Jr. at least another 60 days.
Based on a request by Attorney General Jim Petro, Gov. Bob Taft yesterday
afternoon agreed to postpone Spirko's execution - set for next Tuesday -
to permit time to test the shroud, Mottinger's clothing and other
Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the governor will communicate today with
the Ohio Supreme Court about setting a new execution date.
It is the latest twist in the most controversial murder case since Ohio
resumed capital punishment in 1999 after a 36-year hiatus.
Taft previously delayed Spirko's Sept. 15 execution by two months to allow
for a 2nd clemency hearing. However, the Ohio Parole Board rejected
Spirko's mercy plea a 2nd time by the identical 6-3 vote.
His attorneys knew about the potential for DNA testing for a decade, but
requested it for the 1st time last year. They were rejected.
They now predict that DNA testing - which was not available when Mottinger
was killed in 1982 - will show another man was the killer.
Attorneys Thomas Hill and Alvin Dunn said recent evidence points to
another possible suspect, Dale Dingus, a former house painter from the Van
The body was wrapped in what some reports describe as a painter's cloth.
"This is what we've been asking for," Dunn said yesterday. "We believe
there is biological evidence there - and it won't be John Spirko's."
Mottinger, 48, the postmistress in tiny Elgin, in the northwestern part of
the state, was abducted and killed on Aug. 9, 1982. Her wrapped body was
found in a farm field 6 weeks later.
Based largely on self-incriminating statements and knowledge of the crime,
Spirko, now 59, was convicted and sentenced to death for Mottinger's
All county, state and federal courts have upheld the conviction.
Although he agreed to the testing, Petro is convinced it will prove
neither guilt nor innocence.
"We don't think the DNA test will be dispositive, but it is one component
that needs to be considered," Petro told The Dispatch.
"We think it's not an illegitimate request. Anytime you have a
circumstance in which the ultimate punishment is about to be imposed, you
need to afford every opportunity to review the evidence."
A letter Petro sent to Hill yesterday confirmed that the testing is under
way at the state Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation in
Other items to be tested include a scrap of fabric apparently torn from
the shroud, duct tape that wrapped the body, a concrete block and
fragments found around the body, and hair and blood samples.
The results should be available in 30 to 60 days, Petro said.
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
Democrat Kaine Wins Virginia Governor's Race
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, won the race for governor in
Virginia tonight, scoring a major political victory for his mentor, Gov.
Mark Warner, and sending a powerful message that President Bush's
political standing has fallen in this reliably Republican state.
With 93 % of the ballots counted, Mr. Kaine had 52 % of the vote to 46 %
for his Republican opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, a former attorney general.
An independent candidate, state Senator H. Russell Potts Jr., a
Republican, had 2 %.
The comeback victory by Mr. Kaine, who had trailed for much of the race,
provided a big boost to Mr. Warner, who had anointed Mr. Kaine his
successor and who is now considering running for president in 2008.
The outgoing governor, who has approval ratings over 70 % in Virginia but
was prohibited by state law from succeeding himself, is attempting to cast
himself as a pragmatic, centrist Democrat who can win in the South, and
Mr. Kaine's victory clearly burnished that image.
Equally significant, Mr. Kaine's victory was a major blow to Mr. Bush, who
campaigned for Mr. Kilgore on Monday night even though his own approval
rating has dipped below 50 percent in Virginia.
Mr. Kilgore's aides said Mr. Bush's appearance was crucial in driving up
Republican turnout, but Democrats and political analysts said Mr. Bush's
visit might have also energized as many or more Democrats and independent
voters to come out for Mr. Kaine.
Democrats are now likely to trumpet Mr. Kaine's victory as evidence that
Mr. Bush has become a detriment to local and state Republican candidates
in advance of next year's mid-term congressional elections.
But Mr. Kilgore may have also hurt himself by running harshly negative
advertisements attacking Mr. Kaine's positions on the death penalty, taxes
and illegal immigration. According to some political analysts and polls,
those ads alienated many independent voters.
Mr. Kaine, 47, is a lawyer and former mayor of Richmond. His wife, Anne
Holton, is a state juvenile court judge and the daughter of former Gov.
Linwood Holton, a Republican, who campaigned for Mr. Kaine.
It was difficult tonight to assess which candidate was hurt more by Mr.
Potts. Many analysts had expected him to draw more votes from Mr. Kaine,
who needed to win a large number of swing votes in this heavily Republican
With clear skies and unusually warm weather, both camps reported good
turnout in areas they needed to win: for Mr. Kaine, Norfolk, Richmond and
the inner suburbs of Washington; for Mr. Kilgore, the northern suburbs,
Richmond's suburbs, the rural southwest and the Virginia Beach area, with
its concentration of military families.
Mr. Kaine's camp called their voter turnout effort the largest for a
Democrat in state history, saying they had mobilized 4,800 volunteers to
make 600,000 phone calls and knock on 800,000 doors since Friday. The
Kilgore camp declined to provide details on their mobilization effort, but
claimed it was more extensive than Mr. Kaine's.
While turning out core voters was crucial for both sides, it seemed
particularly important for Mr. Kilgore, who had lost support among
independent voters in recent weeks, polls showed.
"It all comes down to turnout," Mr. Kilgore told reorters this morning.
Mr. Bush's 11th-hour appearance was clearly intended to energize the loyal
campaign workers who ran the Republicans' 72-hour operation, so called
because it swung into motion on the final weekend of the race, to
repeatedly urge casual as well as dedicated Republicans to vote for Mr.
In a rousing speech to thousands of Republicans at the Richmond airport on
Monday night, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Kilgore as a son of rural Virginia, a
man who "doesn't have a lot of fancy airs" and who is a guardian of
"I hope you'll work hard tomorrow to call up your friends and neighbors,"
Mr. Bush said. "Tell them if they want good government - good, solid,
sound conservative government - to put this good man in the governor's
chair in Richmond."
Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, said
it was a "high risk" move for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kilgore to have the
president campaign in Virginia at a time when his approval rating was
below 50 % and Mr. Kilgore's ability to win was in doubt. Mr. Bush's
appearance, Mr. Rozell said, could have caused a "counter surge" of
Democrats and "angry-at-Bush" independent voters.
"My guess is Kilgore's people saw polling numbers moving against them and
they saw a real need to mobilize core voters," Mr. Rozell said.
Mr. Kaine's said they were pleased with Mr. Bush's entry into the race.
"Can someone tell me where to send the thank you note?" said Mo Elleithee,
Mr. Kaine's communications director. "The president fired up our base."
But Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the Kilgore campaign, pointed out that
the Kaine camp had Senator John Kerry write a letter to Democrats at the
end of the campaign. "They ended up with John Kerry ... we ended up with
the president," he said. "We got a better deal."
This year's race remained intensely close for months in part because
neither candidate established a dominant public persona or articulated a
defining political theme to capture voters' imaginations.
By contrast, the last three races for governor, all decided by large
margins, focused heavily on single issues: George F. Allen, a Republican,
hammered at high crime and pushed for ending parole in 1993; James S.
Gilmore III, a Republican, pledged to end the unpopular car tax in 1997;
and Mr. Warner said his business skills would help guide the state out of
a budget crisis in 2001.
Mr. Kilgore tried to make character and ideology central themes,
portraying himself as a straight shooter who "doesn't need a poll to make
up his mind" and attacking Mr. Kaine as "instinctively liberal."
"In the final days, it comes down to trust," Mr. Kilgore told reporters
this morning after he voted near his home in a Richmond suburb.
"Virginians may not agree with me on every issue, but they will know where
Mr. Kilgore's final ads of the campaign hammered home his pledges to
increase school funding, oppose higher taxes and make road improvements,
while attacking Mr. Kaine as a liberal who "talks out of both sides of his
mouth" and raises taxes.
Mr. Kaine attempted to build his campaign on the issues of managerial
style and bipartisanship, asserting that Mr. Warner and he had - with
Republican help - made state government more efficient and effective. But
he also questioned Mr. Kilgore's honesty, and accused him of planning to
outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme
Not surprisingly, the last 2 television commercials Mr. Kaine kept on the
air on Election Day featured Mr. Warner.
(source: New York Times)
More information about the DeathPenalty