Berkeley County Delegate John Overington is hoping a bill to bring back the death penalty to West Virginia will pass the legislature this year.
A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 2:30 Tuesday afternoon in the House chamber.
Overington, a long-time supporter of capital punishment, says the idea is gaining support at the statehouse because of the case of Sidney Devonshire.
Devonshire, an eastern panhandle resident, was in the process of building a home for his family in Bunker Hill last summer. On June 6, Devonshire woke up to a fire at the garage apartment on his property where his 22-year-old daughter and 3-year-old grandson were living. Both died as a result of the fire.
Antonio Prophet, 34, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He’s currently being held at the Eastern Regional Jail.
“(Devonshire) and a number other people from the eastern panhandle have added a lot of momentum, just because of the personal tragedies that have happened to them,” Overington said. “I think they’ve rallied a lot of people behind this issue.”
Overington says Devonshire’s case is just one example of when the death penalty is warranted. He says the whole issue is about fairness.
“The main issue that I see is capital punishment lets people know that there is a sense of justice in our society,” Overington said. “That wrongs are taken care of. That the person who did a brutal murder or brutal killing is not going to have a special Thanksgiving dinner.”
The bill would allow the state to execute some convicted murderers using lethal injection.
Critics have called capital punishment cruel, but Overington says it’s an important element of a legal system.
“Our society is a just society,” Overington said. “Justice will prevail in the end, and capital punishment should be a part of that justice system.”
The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.