Christian Leaders Ask Governor McAuliffe to Halt Teleguz Execution
Christian leaders and groups opposed to capital punishment are asking Governor Terry McAuliffe to grant clemency to Ivan Teleguz, a man sentenced to death in connection with a murder for hire.
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Monday, Christian leaders called on Governor Terry McAuliffe to halt a scheduled execution from moving forward. Groups opposed to the capital punishment have come together to fight for the life of Ivan Teleguz.
In 2006, a jury sentenced the Ukrainian native to death in connection with a 2001 murder for hire case. Stephanie Sipe, the mother of Teleguz’s child, was stabbed to death in their Harrisonburg apartment.
The prosecution said Teleguz paid others to kill Sipe so he would not have to continue child support. Teleguz’s lawyers say that makes no sense and the child support continued after Sipe’s death.
“Someone may be executed who could very well be innocent,” said Ed Woodard, pastor at the Central Church of the Brethren.
The Supreme Court decided not to review Teleguz’s case in October 2016. A Rockingham County judge set April 25 as Teleguz’s execution date.
As that date looms, a growing coalition is calling on McAuliffe to intervene.
“Human life, from the beginning of its conception all the way through to its end, must be given its ultimate care,” said Charles Swadley, with the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Faith leaders prayed and delivered a letter to McAuliffe’s office pleading for clemency.
“And as we reflect on Holy Week, we know Jesus faced a lot of false witnesses and we've seen in this case that there have been false witnesses,” said John Myers, president of the Virginia Council of Churches.
Those defending Teleguz point out that two of the three witnesses in the case have since recanted their stories. The third man is serving a life sentence for carrying out Sipe’s murder.
“He’s convicted on the basis of three witnesses, two of whom have come forward and said 'Hey I lied. This guy had nothing to do with it and I just said that to get leniency in my own case,’” said Cara Drinan, professor at Catholic University of America.
Teleguz’s attorneys are seeking more time from the U.S. Supreme Court and McAuliffe.
“Many clemency decisions are difficult ones for governors. In my opinion, this is an easy one,” said Drinan.
A spokesman for the governor says McAuliffe is reviewing the case and an announcement will be made once he reaches a decision.
Teleguz's lawyers are also working on a new filing to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court refused to put his execution on hold.