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Member of prosecution team for Virginia's Death Row inmates speaks out

Posted at 11:40 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 05:47:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hours after Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law to repeal the death penalty, a member of the prosecution team for both of Virginia's death row inmates, said he had concerns for the victims' families.

Inmates, Anthony Juniper and Thomas Porter, were sentenced to die following separate convictions of Capital Murder. Now, they'll spend life in prison without parole.

"We can't forget the victims and their family members," said retired Norfolk Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Phil Evans.

Evans said as a prosecutor, he understands laws change, but he was troubled that there wasn't more communication with the family members of the victims.

He said in the Porter case, the court determinations being changed was not something that was directly communicated to the family prior to it occurring in the General Assembly.

"They've invested a lot of emotional energy in the case. And, so, it's not that they would not understand the dialogue of the change in the legislation. I think it's important that their consideration be given to them and they are integrated into the discussion prior to it occurring in the General Assembly, or certainly prior to the legislation being approved," said Evans.

Meanwhile, CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone, said he believed Wednesday's abolishment of the death penalty was a step toward fairness in the justice system.

"Unfortunately, our system isn't perfect either. It's made up of human beings who exercise their own discretion and judgment. And we're not always correct," said Stone. "It's a lot easier to reverse an error if somebody is sent to prison than it is... obviously, it's impossible if someone's put to death."

Stone added the death penalty was expensive and time-consuming, and subject to human bias.

"A prosecutor in a rural jurisdiction in Western Virginia might make a very different decision about a death penalty case, then a prosecutor in Richmond," said Stone.

Northam's signing of the Death Penalty Repeal Bill Wednesday came after nearly 1400 executions had been carried out in the state since 1608.