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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kaine: Attack ad on death penalty is ‘patently false’; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

WINCHESTER — A television ad questioning Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s past opposition to Virginia’s death penalty and faulting him for representing condemned killers in appeals court are “patently false,” the gubernatorial candidate said Thursday.

But Kaine’s Republican opponent, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, isn’t backing down an inch.

At issue is the Democratic nominee’s bona fides on the death penalty. Kaine acknowledges that he opposes the state’s maximum penalty on religious grounds, but says he won’t interfere with its administration.

Kilgore says that’s a position of convenience designed to hide Kaine’s past opposition to execution.

In one new ad from Camp Kilgore, Stanley Rosenbluth of Arlington talks about the murder of his son and daughter-in-law.

“Tim Kaine voluntarily represented the person who murdered my son,” Rosenbluth says. “He stood with murderers in trying to get them off death row. No matter how heinous the crime, he doesn’t believe that death is a punishment.”

In another ad, Kelly Timbrook, the widow of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook, tells of her husband’s murder at the hands of Edward Bell, who is now on death row. She also says Kaine’s previous statements on the death penalty are “offensive.”

Kilgore’s use of victims’ families is what’s offensive, Kaine told reporters in a conference call.

“The ads are really reprehensible,” he said. “These guys don’t have any ethical boundaries that they won’t cross.”

Further, the Rosenbluth ad just isn’t true, Kaine said.

“I never met [convicted murderer] Mark Sheppard,” Kaine said. “I never visited with him, never spoke with him.”

The judge in the post-conviction federal appeals process appointed an attorney with Kaine’s firm to the case, not Kaine himself, he said.

“My involvement in this case was one occasion, spending point-8 of one hour, 48 minutes, giving advice” to a fellow lawyer.

“It is completely wrong to suggest that it was Tim Kaine who was representing Mark Sheppard,” he said.

But when Kaine put his name on the brief, he was indicating to the federal Fourth Judicial Circuit that he was ready to step in at a moment’s notice, Kilgore told reporters on a later call.

“Folks, each and every day he tries to wiggle out of these representations,” Kilgore said. “He certified to the court that he was representing Mark Sheppard.”

Kilgore came after Kaine for representing other death row inmates.

Kaine acknowledges he was appointed twice to similar federal appeals, but not out of anti-death penalty zeal.

“I was appointed, there is no law that says you have to accept an appointment,” he said. But “the code of legal ethics says lawyers should not turn down cases because they’re politically unpopular or they’re hard.”

“He’s misleading you again,” Kilgore said. “He could have said no to these cases. [Opposing the death penalty] was his cause.”

Kilgore named Richard Lee Whitley and Lem Tuggle, two of Kaine’s previous clients, before recounting the details of their crimes.

“I’m not distancing myself from those cases,” Kaine countered. “They haven’t done an ad on those cases.”

“I have said repeatedly, that anybody on death row in Virginia is going to have their death sentence carried out with Tim Kaine as governor, unless they can demonstrate their innocence,” Kaine said.

What matters is the bottom line, he added.

“I would have signed the death warrant in Mark Sheppard’s case if I was governor,” he said.

Kilgore didn’t budge.

“We stand by our ad today,” he said.

Kaine said he wasn’t bothered by Rosenbluth’s and Timbrook’s statements.

“I don’t know that Mr. Rosenbluth knows these facts,” he said. “I do know this: Jerry Kilgore and the attorney general’s office knew my role in this case. They have access to the applications for compensation in the federal courts.”

Closer to home, some Democrats are just as critical of the ads.

Jim Blubaugh, the Democratic candidate in the 15th District House of Delegates race, said Thursday that Kilgore’s ads are a “scare tactic.”

“It tries to play on the emotional issue of the death of a police officer,” he said.

Kaine’s position, “opposed but won’t interfere,” doesn’t cause him any heartburn at all, and it shouldn’t for the other people in the 15th District, Blubaugh said.

“I support the death penalty myself, as do most people in the 15th District,” he said. “But I think it’s been made to appear more than it is, since Kaine is expressing his moral belief” as opposed to what he’d do in office.

Stating his opposition and support for the law isn’t something to be attacked, he said.

“I think that shows responsibility,” Blubaugh said.