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Virginia to execute first inmate in 3 years, using lethal drug supplied by Texas

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Terry McAuliffe has decided he will not intervene in Thursday’s execution of a serial killer who says his life should be spared because of an intellectual disability.

49-year-old Alfredo Prieto was convicted in 2010 of the rape and capital murder of two people found in a vacant lot near Reston in December of 1988.

He was also convicted of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old in Ontario California in 1990.  While in prison in California, Prieto’s DNA was linked to the double murder in Virginia.

Alfredo Prieto

Alfredo Prieto

McAuliffe issued a statement on Monday explaining his decision:

“It’s the Governor’s responsibility to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are properly carried out unless circumstances merit a stay or commutation of the sentence.  After extensive review and deliberation, I have found no such circumstances, and have thus decided that this execution will move forward.”

Prieto will be the first Virginia inmate executed in three years, and the first to be put to death using a lethal drug supplied by Texas.

Several states, including Virginia, have struggled with acquiring lethal drugs because of boycotts by European-based manufacturers who don’t want their drugs  used in executions.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed on Friday that it has sent three vials of the drug, Pentobarbital, to the Virginia Department of Corrections to put Prieto to death on October 1.

Midazolam

On September 30, Virginia will discontinue its use of the controversial drug Midazolam.  Midazolam has been used in several alleged botched executions in other states, although its use was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Department of Corrections believes Pentobarbital is an effective alternative for executions.

While Texas is revealing the contents of Pentobarbital, the state recently enacted a law keeping the identity of drug suppliers confidential, to safeguard companies from threats.

Lawmakers in Virginia, however, recently struck down legislation which protects drug manufacturers from being identified.

Steve Northup

Steve Northup

“That’s what caused the General Assembly to balk,” said Steve Northup with Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  “There was an interesting coalition of conservatives and progressives in the General Assembly that said we’re not going to do that.  If you want to get drugs from compounding pharmacies, you need to identify those pharmacies.”

Virginia State Delegate Jennifer McClellan, (D) Richmond, said the DOC’s purchase of the lethal drug from Texas is concerning.

“We still don’t know who the manufacturers are,” McClellan argues.

The democratic lawmaker said the issue will likely be the subject of further discussion in February, when lawmakers reconvene in Richmond.

The Texas Department of Corrections is standing behind the effectiveness of Pentobarbital, arguing the drug has been tested for potency and purity.