VPA Execution Witness Pool Information

The Virginia Department of Corrections directed the Virginia Press Association to operate the pool to select the newspaper reporters allowed into the witness room during Virginia executions. 

The department policy will require the witnesses to brief other reporters before filing his or her own stories. This would be done at the press center provided by the penitentiary. In addition, the department states: "We would not allow cameras, microphones, sound or video recorders, notebooks, or drawing materials to be taken into the execution area. The department would supply note pads and pencils to the reporters. The media witnesses would be subject to the same security rules as other witnesses; they should have proper credentials and must leave all personal items such as purses and briefcases outside the institution."

At its July 10, 2009, meeting, the VPA Board of Directors agreed to a new two-tier lottery system where VPA would draw names for two execution witness seats. Applications from papers in the coverage area where the crime occurred will be entered into a lottery for the first seat; and all other papers, including those not drawn for the first seat, will be entered into a lottery for the second seat.

VPA's witness pool will follow rules recommended by the statewide Freedom of Information committee. Participation in the pool will be limited to:

1. One entry per Active member newspaper.
2. Nominees must be persons who are qualified as journalists and capable of briefing other journalists at the coverage scene. They should possess a valid state police press identification card. Qualifications are endorsed by the publisher or senior editor submitting the nomination, with the realization that the performance of the witness is a professional responsibility with significant impact.
3. Nominees must be regularly involved in statewide coverage of capital punishment issues or have participated in regular, detailed coverage of the specific crime for which the execution is scheduled.
4. The reporter whose name is drawn from the pool will be assigned to one specific execution. The reporter remains the selection even if the execution is postponed. He or she surrenders this seat if employment with the selected newspaper ends prior to the execution, but the selected newspaper retains rights to the seat. A separate drawing will be held for each Virginia execution.

Other Member Resources

VPA Paver Requests

Building our future one brick at a time.

Cameras in the Courtroom

Virginia State Code Section 19.2-266 states: "A court may solely in its discretion permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during the progress of judicial proceedings."

Papers Must Publish Fair Housing Notices

In 2003, 18 VAC 135-50-110 of the Virginia Administrative Code was modified to state that newspapers are required to publish a fair-housing publisher's notice. Previously, the notice was used at the newspaper's discretion.

Games of Chance and Advertising

In Virginia, games of chance are usually illegal. However, the ones that are permitted -- bingo games, raffles and, since 1993, duck races -- are strictly governed under 18.2-340 of the Code of Virginia. Their regulation is the responsibility of the state Department of Charitable Gaming.

Exemptions from Sales and Use Tax for Printing Free Newspapers

On May 22, 1989, Commissioner W.H. Forst issued a ruling stating that the 1983 law change would exempt the free-newspaper publisher from the sales tax.

State Police Press IDs

In cooperation with the Virginia State Police, Virginia Press Association provides identification credentials to journalists who are bona fide employees of Virginia newspapers.

Newspapers and the Law

Please remember that VPA provides these links for information purposes only. If you have specific questions, please consult your publication's attorney.