- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2000

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III will not grant clemency to condemned killer Derek Barnabei despite an international outcry, saying, "Violent murder will not be tolerated by a civilized people."
The Republican governor said in a statement he will not intervene in the case, even though Pope John Paul II made another appeal for Barnabei during his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square yesterday. Barnabei is scheduled to be executed tonight for the 1993 rape and murder of an Old Dominion University student.
The case gained widespread attention when forensic evidence disappeared from a secure holding area in the Norfolk Circuit Court clerk's office late last month. The evidence, which included fingernail clippings, was found in the office a few days later, but Mr. Gilmore ordered an investigation into the disappearance and asked that new DNA tests be conducted on the material.
He said earlier this week the results of the new tests left no doubt about Barnabei's guilt.
Barnabei's attorneys argued there had been "deliberate and malicious tampering" with the evidence by the state, but a federal judge on Tuesday dismissed those accusations and denied a stay for Barnabei.
Barnabei, 33, was convicted in 1994 of raping and murdering 17-year-old Sarah J. Wisnosky, a freshman at Old Dominion University, the previous year. Sarah's nude body was found Sept. 22, 1993 two weeks before her 18th birthday floating face-down in a river in Norfolk after a passer-by walking her dog told police a mannequin appeared to be floating in the river.
Barnabei has steadfastly maintained his innocence and yesterday challenged the validity of state DNA tests.
"They issued an intentionally vague report," Barnabei told the Associated Press in a phone interview.
The tests showed that blood on fingernail clippings from Sarah matched Barnabei's.
"Now that the guilt of Barnabei has been confirmed, there remains the generalized assault on capital punishment by many in this country and foreign countries," Mr. Gilmore said in the statement. "I believe we are entitled to set a moral standard that violent murder will not be tolerated by a civilized people."
Barnabei is scheduled to be executed by injection at 9 tonight. Barring a last-minute court stay, he will become the 79th person to be executed in Virginia since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
During an 11-day jury trial in Norfolk in 1994, prosecutors argued that Barnabei had met Sarah on several occasions on campus and invited her to attend several fraternity parties. On the night of her death, Sarah called her roommate and said she was with Barnabei.
The hazel-eyed, brown-haired teen was discovered the next day. She had been struck at least 10 times in the face and head with a blunt object, possibly a hammer.
Barnabei was arrested three months later in Ohio. He was sentenced to death the following year. Sarah's mother, Patricia Streeter, and father, Carl Wisnosky, have repeatedly declined interviews since their daughter's murder.
State Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said Barnabei was brought Sunday to the Greensville Correctional Center, where he is under 24-hour watch and sleeps in one of three cells adjacent to the execution chamber at the prison in Jarratt.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are expected to attend more than two dozen vigils planned across the state to protest Barnabei's execution.
Even members of the Italian media have converged on Richmond and Emporia, about 12 miles south of Jarratt, in the past several days to cover Barnabei's last-ditch efforts for a stay.
Italians in general have been outraged by death-penalty cases and have taken particular interest in Barnabei's case because he is an Italian American.
Barnabei's mother, Jane Barnabei, also visited Italy in recent months to trumpet her son's cause.
Barnabei was recently awarded honorary citizenship of Palermo, Sicily. Torchlight processions against the death penalty were held last night in cities across Italy.
The actions of death-penalty opponents in Virginia and Italy have perplexed Mark Christie, who was chief counsel to Gov. George F. Allen in 1997.
"I have the utmost respect for people who just as a matter of conscience or principle are opposed to the death penalty," Mr. Christie said. "But I don't respect those activists who try to take these murderers and turn them into victims. And it's terribly upsetting for the victim's family to see the man who raped and murdered their daughter to be turned into some kind of hero."
The international spotlight has not bothered some of Jarratt's 615 residents.
"The town is used to the international spotlight and we know how to handle it," Town Council member Willie Nunnally said yesterday afternoon. "The town has been handling this case and other cases very well. This kind of media attention doesn't seem to bother anyone in this town."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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