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Dna evidence destroyed in death penalty case { November 30 2005 }

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Virginia governor commutes death sentence
By Holly Yeager in Washington
Published: November 30 2005 02:00 | Last updated: November 30 2005 02:00

Mark Warner, governor of Virginia and a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, yesterday commuted the death sentence of a convicted murderer who would have been the 1,000th person executed in the US since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

The death penalty has played a central role in many presidential campaigns and Mr Warner's decision had been closely watched, both as a gauge of his potential presidential ambitions and as a barometer of US sentiment on the emotionally charged topic.

Mr Warner, who had denied 11 previous pleas for clemency, said Robin Lovitt, sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a pool hall manager, would face life in prison without parole.

Mr Lovitt had been due to die by lethal injection tonight. He has proclaimed his innocence, but DNA evidence that could be useful in his case was destroyed - a factor Mr Warner cited in his decision.

"No case has been more troubling," Mr Warner said this week. "Rest assured there is no case I have spent more time thinking about, praying about and reflecting on than this case."

Opinion polls show Americans favour the death penalty for convicted murderers by a strong margin. But support has slipped in recent years following several high-profile cases in which people sentenced to death had later been found innocent.

Democratic presidential candidates have often struggled with the topic. In 1988 Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, was portrayed as soft on crime after he said he would not favour the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife. In 1992 Bill Clinton interrupted his campaign schedule to return to Arkansas to oversee the execution of a mentally retarded man.

1000th execution is white while black spared
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Ashcroft pursues death { July 1 2002 }
California and florida suspend executions after botch
Court overturns 100 death sentences { September 2 2003 }
Death penalty flawed { June 12 2000 }
Death penalty suspended in new york
Death row evidence deliberately falsified by police { May 6 2006 }
Dna clears death row inmate { April 22 2003 }
Dna evidence destroyed in death penalty case { November 30 2005 }
Doctors refusal cause execution postponed indefinitely
Fed penalty unconstitutional { July 2 2002 }
Federal unconstitutional { September 24 2002 }
Governor orders innocence test of executed man { January 6 2006 }
Halt executions { May 16 2002 }
Innocent individuals are executed { August 11 2003 }
Jury only { June 25 2002 }
Justice stevens cites serious flaws in use of death penalty { August 8 2005 }
Lethal injections cause agonizingly painful deaths { April 15 2005 }
Md death penalty { May 10 2002 }
Md death racial { January 8 2003 }
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Mentally retarded { June 21 2002 }
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North carolina executions on hold { February 20 2007 }
Us accuses germany undermining death penalty { November 14 2000 }
Us courts overturns 100 death sentences { September 2 2003 }
Us violated mexicans rights on death row
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