The Republican National Committee on Monday released an attack ad targeting Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine for serving as a defense attorney for men convicted of murder, agreeing to let a German citizen convicted of murder go to a German prison, and commuting the sentence of a man on death row.
The first half of the ad focuses on Lem Tuggle and Richard Lee Whitley, both of whom were convicted for murder. Kaine’s legal representation of the two men did not change the fact that both were executed. It also criticizes Kaine for agreeing to repatriate German citizen Jens Söring who was convicted of murder (the repatriation was blocked by his successors).
The ad’s description of Tim Kaine’s commutation of Percy Walton, who was convicted of murdering an elderly couple as well as a neighbor, simply says that “Kaine commuted his sentence, citing concerns disproved by the courts.”
But when Kaine commuted Walton’s death sentence to life without parole in June of 2008, he wrote that “one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it.”
Kaine was referring to Walton’s mental competence, or lack thereof. When Kaine originally chose to postpone the inmate’s execution in 2006, it was because Walton had been judged by many to be in deteriorating mental health. Walton had told his attorneys that his execution would reanimate his victims, and that he’d return to life and ride to Burger King on a motorcycle. A few years earlier, he scored a 66 on an IQ test and a state-issued evaluation said that he “doesn’t shower, talks to himself … and … bangs on walls.”
“If right now he is insane and he doesn’t know right from wrong and he doesn’t know diddly squat, what purpose would it serve? I’d get no satisfaction out of watching him die,” the daughter of the couple Walton was convicted of murdering told the Washington Post in 2006.
The irony behind the ad is that Kaine is not a death penalty abolitionist. While he has expressed personal opposition to executions, he presided over 11 executions as governor; his running mate Hillary Clinton is a proponent of capital punishment.