Triggerman rule; eliminated. (HB782)

Introduced By

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) with support from 13 copatrons, whose average partisan position is:

Those copatrons are Del. Clay Athey (R-Front Royal), Del. Vince Callahan (R-McLean), Del. Tim Hugo (R-Centreville), Del. Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave), Del. Matt Lohr (R-Harrisonburg), Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville), Del. John O'Bannon (R-Richmond), Del. Tom Rust (R-Herndon), Del. Terrie Suit (R-Virginia Beach), Del. John Welch (R-Virginia Beach), Del. Tommy Wright (R-Victoria), Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Elimination of the triggerman rule. Eliminates the "triggerman rule," which provides that only the actual perpetrator of a capital murder is eligible for the death penalty, and that accessories and principals in the second degree can only be punished with first degree murder. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/10/2006Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/06 066144306
01/10/2006Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/11/2006Fiscal impact statement from VCSC (HB782)
01/18/2006Assigned to Courts of Justice sub-committee: Criminal Law
02/06/2006Reported from Courts of Justice (15-Y 1-N) (see vote tally)
02/08/2006Read first time
02/09/2006Passed by for the day
02/10/2006Read second time and engrossed
02/13/2006Read third time and passed House (83-Y 16-N)
02/13/2006VOTE: PASSAGE (83-Y 16-N) (see vote tally)
02/13/2006Communicated to Senate
02/14/2006Constitutional reading dispensed
02/14/2006Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
03/06/2006Continued to 2007 in Courts of Justice with letter (15-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
03/06/2006Letter sent to Crime Commission


Lloyd Snook writes:

I'm opposed to the death penalty anyway, but I have two very specific concerns about this bill.

1. When Virginia first adopted the current death penalty statute in 1977, it did so with reluctance. Speaker A. L. Philpott -- a true conservative in the sense that he was leery of government exercise of power -- made sure that the number of crimes that were death-eligible was fairly small, for two reasons. He wanted the death penalty to be reserved for the worst of the worst, not just the bad. And he wanted it to be reserved for those for whom guilt was not likely to be an issue. If someone is charged with murder in the course of a robbery, it is fairly easy to know when that crime has been committed. It is fairly easy to decide that the person who pulled the trigger intended death or at least serious bodily harm. It is not clear if two people go into a store and one person shoots the clerk whether the other person intended that anyone die. We are opening the door here to a much larger number of people who will be subject to the death penalty.

2. Other states that do not have a triggerman rule have extremely complex rules about how the state has to prove the constitutionally required mental state to justify a death sentence. We have been blessed to avoid that furor, but now this bill steps us right into the middle of it.