Delegate Warren E. Barry (R. Fairfax) has proposed that sex offenders be required to register when they move into a city or county if they have been convicted of a sex offense in the last 27 years. Sen. Herbert H. Bateman (R-Newport News) has proposed that convicts on death row be poisoned instead of electrocuted.
In addition, the Virginia General Assembly faces proposals for mandatory sentences for repeat offenders, bills to institute the death penalty for killing the governor of Virginia, the President or the Vice President, and legislation stiffens the penalties for drug offenses.
These are among 69 anticrime measures before the legislature this session.
In this election year the crime bills are quite popular in the Virginia House of Delegates, where all the delegates are up for re-election and some are running for state offices.
Del. Barry who has not announced plans to run for any office this year, said he introduced his sex offender registration bill at the request of Rita Cunningham, the mother of a 13-year-old girl who has raped and murdered near her home in Fairfax County two years ago.
Barry said he offered the proposal, which was the subject of a committee hearing today, to help prevent sex offenders from repeatedly committing the same crime. He said it would act "as a psychologial deterrent" to ex-convicts. The sex offender would receive a certain "exposure" to local officials that the offender does not now have, he said.
Barry said his figures show that 84.5 per cent of the rapes committed nationally in 1975 were by persons with prior rape convictions.
Del. Frank M. Slayton (D-Halifax), however, argued that Barry's bill "assumes that this individual (rapist( is doing to be a repeater all his life." Other opponents said the sex offenders would be subject to harassment by police since the register would provide suspects in unsolved sex crimes.
The Barry bill, which is similar to a California law, was sent to a House subcommittee for review.
Sen. Bateman's bill to require that the death penalty be carried out by means of poison, calls for the use of first a tranquilizing, then a lethal drug instead of electrocution.
Bateman said poisoning is "less painful and more humane" then "the barbaric" methods now used. The senator who said he is in favor of capital punishment, said his bill was not motivated by the recent execution of Gary Gilmore.
Another crime measure, sponsored by Del. Ira M. Lechner (D-Arlington), would require that mandatorysentences without parole or suspension be given to repeat offenders.
Lechner, who is running for lieutnant governor, said. "We have a turnstyle form of justice." He said he believes people "are tired" of "career criminals" who repeat crimes over and over because they do not expect heavy punishment.
As an example of Lechner's bill, a person convicted of robbery might receive a suspended sentence if it is his first offense. If, within a year of the first offense, that person, commits robbery again he would automatically receive the mandatory five years or more.
For the third and fourth offense within a year he would receive 30 years and 60 years, respectively under the bill, which is co-sponsored by 65 other delegates.
Criminal defense attorneys oppose Lechner's bill because they say sentencing should be left up to he judge and jury. Others argue that each case has to be treated on an individual basis because circumstances vary.
There is also a bill that would bring the state's death penalty in line with what the Supreme Court has ruled is constitutional. The Supreme Court outlawed the state's capital punishment procedure last July.
Under the death penalty bill, jurors would first hear evidence to determine a defendant's guilty or innocence in a capital crime. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, a second hearing would be held to determine the sentencing.
To impose the death penalty, the judge or jury must decide that the defendant would be likely to commit violent crimes that would constitute a threat to society if he or she were not executed. Once the defendant was sentenced to die, he or she could appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
In his address to the Assembly on opening day Jan. 12 Gov. Mills E. Godwin suggested to the members that they pass legislation adding at least a mandatory year to the sentence of every convicted felon who escapes from state or local custody. He would also require a mandatory sentence of at least one year with no suspension, probation or parole, for the second or subsequent convictions and prescribe a mandatory 10-year sentence for persons convicted of distributing hard drugs.