Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Principled not partisan

The Cuccinelli Compass: A Grassroots Update
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Dear Friends and Fellow Virginians,

I wanted to give you a short update on a few of my legislative plans after last week, which was the first full week of the General Assembly Session.

Writs of Actual Innocence

Last Wednesday I testified at a House Courts subcommittee meeting on Writs of Actual Innocence. The bill was approved by the subcommittee.

I’m supporting legislation to amend the actual innocence law to ensure Virginia has a formal judicial process to exonerate those who have been convicted but later evidence is discovered which could prove them innocent. This legislation does two important things:

  • Changes the standard the defendant must satisfy to be exonerated/win exoneration. The concern is that the current law is so stringent that even people who are innocent may not be able to get relief. The standard should be difficult to meet, but not impossible.
  • Formally allows the attorney general to provide the court with evidence of innocence not just guilt, which is the way the law is currently written.

My firm belief in erring on the side of innocence has often confounded those that try to pin me down as strictly partisan as evident by this article posted on Bacon’s Rebellion. I am very sensitive to the mistakes that are possible in our criminal justice system, and we have to be vigilant to preserve liberty and justice.

Restoration of Rights

Earlier last week I testified in front of both House and Senate subcommittees on restoring voting rights to some non-violent felons.

In my more than 10 years in Richmond as a State Senator and Attorney General, I've never seen a penalty for any crime come down - they only go up. We all want to be tough on crime, and I have done that as Attorney General, but for our criminal justice system we need to be seeking out the proper balance between offenses and punishments (also keeping in mind what all of this costs).

What it means to be a felon today is just not as high a threshold as what it used to be - either 20 years ago or 200 years ago. Stealing is wrong, but should you lose your voting rights for life for stealing $200? Be subject to a year in prison for stealing $200? That's the state of the law in Virginia right now.

I stand alongside Governor McDonnell in fighting to restore the civil liberties to nonviolent felons that have served their time. Luckily, this legislation barely advanced through a Senate subcommittee. I’ll continue to keep working on this issue.

Human Trafficking

When I was elected attorney general, I made fighting human trafficking a priority. This crime is an egregious human rights violation, and it is happening right in our back yard.

If you missed my Op-Ed published in the Washington Times last week, please click here to read it.

This has been a problem for a long time, but appears to have been growing worse in recent years. One of the key things we’ve done in our office is train our law enforcement officials on how to identify victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation, or involuntary domestic servitude.

I’ve been working in all of these areas for many years. It's part of why I have often confounded liberals. But, when you’re focused on advancing principle, you do things simply because you believe they’re right. Long before I decided to run for governor, was elected attorney general, and even before I chose to run for state Senate, I’ve fought based on principle.

I will continue to do the same if elected governor.


Ken Cuccinelli II
Attorney General of Virginia

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