Charlottesville (VA) Endorses Moratorium on Death Penalty

Daily Progress staff writer

January 21, 2000

The Charlottesville City Council entered new ground earlier this week when it became the first Virginia jurisdiction to pass a resolution supporting a moratorium on the death penalty in the state, but the move has received mixed reviews.

Some have even questioned why the council would take a stand on an issue that is clearly out of its political realm.
David J. Toscano, a longtime City Council member, said, “Ask the mayor. I didn’t put it on the agenda.” But Toscano noted that even though the council “did not spend a lot of time” on the issue, “the moratorium was important to support.”

Craig Dunn, a member of the Charlottesville Community Council, disagreed.

“I think it’s just rhetoric; they have more important things to do,” Dunn said. “It’s like if they want to make a statement against abortion, that means nothing.”

Mayor Virginia Daugherty said Friday that she placed the resolution on the consent agenda for the council’s Tuesday night meeting at the urging of a locally based anti-execution group.

A consent agenda is a package of motions that is generally passed with little or no debate. Tuesday’s list also included items about the city’s weed ordinance, the language on parking signs and the temporary relocation of a polling station. It was passed unanimously without public discussion.

The resolution, submitted by Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, calls for a halt to executions until polices are implemented that ensure fair and consistent administration of capital cases.

In place of the death penalty, VADP supports life imprisonment without the possibly of parole for a minimum of 25 years combined with restitution to the victim’s family, said Henry Heller of Nelson County, the group’s executive director.

“This is a movement that is happening nationally right now,” he said. “There are problems with this death penalty that we have. It isn’t working. There are too many questions about it.”

Heller also said he is laying the groundwork for sweeping change.

“This is sort of the beginning,” he explained. “You gather support and you come to the state government that makes these laws.”

Michael Webb, who also sits on the Charlottesville Community Council, a group of Republicans and independents that touts itself as an “alternative voice” to the all-Democratic City Council, said the resolution doesn’t reflect the opinions of Charlottesville residents.

“The constituents don’t have a lot of say over what City Council decides,” Webb said. “I thought they had other issues to address. … I’m baffled by this as much as anybody else.”

Councilor Blake Caravati said the council has the right to express its views.

“Since we did it, I have gotten about 20 e-mails from around the state and from Arizona thanking [us] for taking such a courageous stand,” Caravati said.

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The Current City Council Members are:
  • Virginia Daugherty - - Mayor
  • Meredith Richards Vice-Mayor
  • Maurice Cox
  • Blake Caravati
  • David J. Toscano

To contact a Council member, you can click HERE to send an email to Clerk of Council.

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