by Amanda Iacone, WTOP
WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe did not intervene in the execution of a convicted killer and rapist because he found no legal reason to halt the punishment doled out by a Fairfax County jury, he said during an interview on WTOP Friday.
Alfredo Prieto, 49, was convicted of the 1988 rape and murder of a young woman and the slaying of her boyfriend — the bodies of the George Washington University students were found near Reston. He was connected to as many as six other killings in California and Virginia but never prosecuted for those crimes. His death Thursday night at a state prison in Jarratt was the first execution in Virginia in three years.
Prieto's attorneys had argued during appeals that he was intellectually disabled and should not have been eligible for the death penalty. Later, they tried to halt the execution, arguing the quality of the drugs that would be used to put Prieto to death were questionable and could lead to a painful death.
During an appearance on "Ask the Governor," McAuliffe said he found no miscarriage of justice in the case, which had been appealed in state and federal courts and went before three juries. And he could not argue with the decision of the 12 jurors who unanimously decided on the death sentence.
"I'm a Catholic. I have a hard time with it. But as I said during the campaign, that my job as governor, I have to enforce the laws and it is the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia," he said in remarks after the show explaining his position on the death penalty.
Last week during Pope Francis' visit to D.C., the pontiff called to abolish the death penalty in a speech before Congress, arguing that all life is scared including the lives of criminals.
McAuliffe said he read through the case file and court decisions, which found that he was intellectually capable.
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign
McAuliffe also veered into national politics and suggested that Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are among the top candidates to be Hillary Clinton's running mate.
Warner and Kaine both served as governor before serving in the U.S. Senate.
McAuliffe, a longtime supporter of the Clintons, said he would not be on the short list for vice president should the former secretary of state win the Democratic nomination.
"I love doing my job as governor of Virginia."
McAuliffe is barred by term limits from seeking a second term in Virginia's executive mansion. This is his first stab at serving in elected office.
"She is going to be the next president of the United States," he said.
"We'll put up with the noise of the emails — it's just part of the process you go through when you run for president. I mean, we aren't playing bean bag here. This is running for the most powerful job in the world. And let me tell you, she is very smart and she is also very tough and she can handle it."
The thorny politics of Northern Virginia transportation
"I don't have time for their partisan petty little press conferences. I really don't. I've got to show results. I'm a problem solver, not a problem creator," McAuliffe said.
The inside the Beltway plan would require drivers to pay a toll to use the lanes if they travel without any passengers. Vehicles with multiple occupants could use the lanes for free. Tolls would be imposed on outbound and inbound traffic during both the morning and evening commutes. Currently during the rush hour, only high occupancy vehicles can use the lanes.
"All we're doing is adding capacity," he said, by allowing single drivers to use the lanes during the rush hour.
House Speaker Bill Howell, a Republican who represents Stafford County, said Thursday that the plan would charge outrageous tolls without adding any new lane miles. He said lawmakers would halt the plan if the McAuliffe administration doesn't.
But McAuliffe argued the tolling plan addresses concerns of Arlington County, which opposes widening the interstate and prefers public transit over personal vehicles. Arlington County previously went to court to block the 95/395 express lanes from entering its jurisdiction and today the toll lanes revert to standard free, HOV lanes at the county line.
The governor called making transportation changes inside the Beltway a "thorny political issue."
His administration has also argued that imposing tolls is far cheaper than widening the narrow stretch of highway, which is squeezed between residential neighborhoods, the Orange Line and high-rise buildings.
A separate project would build tolled express lanes from the Beltway west to Haymarket.