Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 4, 2014

Co-sponsors of death penalty bill hope to take burden off state

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON — Felons convicted of first-degree murder could face the death penalty in West Virginia if the Legislature approves a bill calling for its implementation.

Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, has introduced House Bill 2595, a piece of legislation that would make the death penalty a sentencing option for people convicted of first-degree murder. The bill’s co-sponsors include Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer; and Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer.

“I have been a supporter of that, a co-sponsor, if you will,” Gearheart said Monday. “Delegate Overington has supported this every year he has been in the Legislature. It appears to me an appropriate deterrent to the most heinous crimes, where there is no possibility of reforming a person back into society.”

The death penalty would be for the worst cases, he said.

“We’re talking about the most heinous individuals who are going to be a burden to the state of West Virginia for many, many years to come with their incarceration and the cost associated with it,” Gearheart said.

The bill would amend the state’s constitution, said Ellington, who added he has co-sponsored the bill for several years.

“It would be in cases where it was clear cut first-degree murder, no doubt,” Ellington said.

Like Gearheart, Ellington said the penalty would be available for extreme cases.

“Some people feel we should have that as a possibility,” he said.” Not that we want to terminate people, but there are probably some bad characters out there we don’t want to let back into society. It gives us an extra tool, rather than settling on life in prison at taxpayer expense; especially since we have overcrowded jails.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com