Death Penalty Debate

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Sometime this week, a federal jury could deliver the first death sentence in West Virginia in more than 40 years.

The jurors in Charleston must choose between death and life in
prison without parole for George Lecco and Valerie Friend. The pair
were convicted earlier this month in the murder of a government
drug informant.

But whatever the verdict, the case is not expected to affect the
debate over the absence of capital punishment for state crimes in
West Virginia.

Experts say that federal prosecutors have secured the death
penalty in five other states that have abolished it on the state
level. Those cases have not prompted those states to restore
capital punishment.

But the Legislature's leading advocate for reviving the death
penalty in West Virginia hopes for a different result.

Delegate John Overington is a Berkeley County Republican who
says the Lecco-Friend case seems heinous enough to increase
interest in bringing back the death penalty for state crimes.

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