In this commentary by Margaret Edds of the Norfolk paper, she questions the sufficiency of the evidence to support the capital murder conviction of Robin Lovitt, who is scheduled to be put to death on July 11. Lovitt was convicted and sentenced in Arlington County, not some conservative, rural jurisdiction. Ms. Edds explains: "At issue is whether it’s proper to execute a man, one who proclaims his innocence, even though a clerk mistakenly destroyed evidence in the case."
Lovitt was represented without success before the Fourth Circuit by Ken Starr. In Lovitt v. True, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Wilkinson, joined by Judges Williams and Traxler, rejected Lovitt's post-conviction claims, with this introduction:
"Robin Lovitt was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of his former co-worker during the commission of a robbery. His challenges to his conviction and sentence — under Strickland, Brady, and Youngblood — have been heard by many courts. The Supreme Court of Virginia rendered two thorough and conscientious opinions in his case — one on direct appeal and one on habeas. The state habeas court in Arlington also treated Lovitt’s claims with care, holding a two-day evidentiary hearing and authoring detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Finally, the federal district court again reviewed Lovitt’s claims, and dismissed them in a meticulous and lengthy opinion.
This case is a good example of the care with which state courts should treat capital cases. We think the Virginia Supreme Court properly resolved Lovitt’s claims. Even if that were not the case, however, we could not begin to say that it unreasonably applied clearly established Supreme Court law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (2000). In so concluding, we affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing the petition."
For the earlier proceedings, see Lovitt v. Com., 260 Va. 497, 537 S.E.2d 866 (2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 815 (2001); Lovitt v. Warden, 266 Va. 216, 585 S.E.2d 801 (2003); Lovitt v. True, 330 F. Supp.2d 603 (E.D. Va. 2004) (Hudson, J.).
Evidently, the Virginian-Pilot editorialists, old and new, are not in sync on this case.
UPDATE: John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute has this commentary urging the commutation of Lovitt's sentence.