While states across the country are running low on lethal injection drugs, Virginia's stockpile has expired, and electrocutions could return.
A proposal is now headed to the Virginia Senate, a bill that would make electrocutions the default method of capital punishment if lethal injections are not available.
The Commonwealth's supply of lethal injection drugs expired Nov. 30, 2013, and eight people are currently on Virginia's death row. There are no executions scheduled, largely because of the lengthy appeal process.
But in an interview Friday, Virginia ACLU Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga said the debate now unfolding in Richmond could worsen problems already inherent with capital punishment.
"We have people in Virginia still in jeopardy of being executed for being innocent," Gastañaga said. "And they're up there debating how we should kill people, not whether we should kill people."
A companion bill has already passed the Virginia House of Delegates in a 64-32 vote, with more than half of delegates from the Richmond area supporting the proposal.
In an email from the Virginia Department of Corrections, Director of Communications Lisa E. Kinney said the Department is now exploring options to purchase new lethal injection drugs. Other parts of the country are currently facing a shortage, partly because European companies hesitant to have their drugs used for executions.
"[Virginia'] drugs have come from a domestic company," Kinney said. "The Department has no position on the pending bills."
Questions on whether forced electrocutions are humane will continue take center stage if the proposed legislation heads to Governor Terry McAuliffe's desk. But in a phone interview Friday, the patron of the Senate bill, Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) said gruesome tales of electrocution are often exaggerated.
"We see nothing to the extent of the horror stories of the Green Mile, the movies people watch," Carrico said.
Proponents of the electric chair also point to the 25 minutes an Ohio man took to die, with a new combination of lethal injection drugs.
"When people start seeing that these drugs are not becoming exactly effective, it is a more inhumane way to do it than electrocution," Carrico said. "And what about the victims' families? Many of them could never see their loved ones again because of these heinous crimes. We need to think about them."
Carrico's proposal, Senate Bill 607, is expected to receive a full Senate vote next week.
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