Robin Lovitt will not die by injection tonight in Virginia as the 1,000th person executed in the U.S. since the death penalty was allowed to resume in 1976, the Richmond Times-Dispatch says. Gov. Mark R. Warner commuted Lovitt’s death sentence to life without parole yesterday. He found no fault with the jury that convicted Lovitt and said he was mindful of the loss suffered by the family of the victim, Clayton Dicks. Citing the destruction of evidence by a court official, Warner said the state “must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly.” Warner, a 2008 presidential hopeful, had let all 11 previous executions proceed during his administration, which will end in January.
The commutation means this likely will be the first year since 1983 in which Virginia has not conducted an execution. Lovitt, 42, was convicted of the 1998, murder of Dicks, who was stabbed to death with scissors during the robbery of a pool hall. In 2001, a court clerk arranged to have the evidence destroyed just weeks after a new state law took effect ordering evidence to be preserved in case DNA testing might be required.