Editorial: Changing Perspective on Death Penalty

Editorial: Changing Perspective on Death Penalty

Evolving standards will eclipse the death penalty entirely at some point in the future.

It’s sad to see senseless death as a response to senseless death.

Alfred R. Prieto is not a sympathetic figure, a serial killer who was on death row in California when DNA connected him to murders and rapes in Reston and Arlington that took place in 1988. He is scheduled for execution this week, at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Evolving standards of decency have led to the understanding that it’s wrong and unconstitutional to subject people whose crimes were committed when they were juveniles or people with intellectual disabilities to the death penalty.

The Arc of Northern Virginia, an advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities, asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to send Prieto back to California so that his intellectual disabilities, raised in the sentencing phase of his trial, could be analysed. McAuliffe has declined to intervene in Prieto’s case. It was a Virginia case, Atkins v. Virginia, that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that execution of people with mental retardation is unconstitutional.

Prieto was sent to Virginia to face trial even though he was already on death row in California because of the belief, clearly correct, that he would be more likely to be executed in Virginia.

Vigil to Oppose Death Penalty

Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will hold vigils around the state on the evening that Alfredo Prieto is scheduled for execution, Thursday, Oct. 1.

Arlington Vigil in opposition to the death penalty

Oct. 1, 8:30-9:10 p.m.

Clarendon Metro Station. The vigil will be held in the public park between Clarendon and Wilson Boulevards, right behind the Metro exit. Attendees are welcome to bring signs with appropriate, peaceful, anti-death penalty messages.

For more information, contact Elise Cleva at elise.cleva@gmail... or see http://www.vadp.org/

Over time, it seems clear that evolving standards of decency will end the death penalty in the United States. The number of death sentences has dropped dramatically since 2000, and executions have declined as well, from a high of 98 in 1999 to just 35 in 2014, the lowest in 20 years, according to Amnesty International.

Prieto committed heinous crimes, and releasing him from prison should never be an option.

Warren Fulton and Rachel Raver were last seen around midnight in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 2, 1988. The two George Washington University students, both 22, were found dead Dec. 6, 1988 in a field off Hunter Mill Road in Reston. Both were shot in the head. Raver had been raped. Investigators believed they had been abducted and forced to drive to the remote location. DNA evidence linked Prieto to Raver’s death and to that of Veronica Jefferson, a 24-year-old CIA finance officer who was raped and shot to death in Arlington County in May 1988, although he was never tried in that case. A Fairfax County jury sentenced Prieto to death in 2006.

The murders and rapes were unsolved for 17 years until 2005 when California’s DNA database joined a national database.