Virginia's Senate votes to abolish the death penalty

Virginia's Senate votes to abolish the death penalty
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Virginia's Senate voted on Wednesday to abolish the death penalty in a move that could make the commonwealth one of the first states in the South to end capital punishment. 

Twenty-one Democrats voted to abolish the death penalty, while 17 Republicans voted to keep it and one person abstained, The Washington Post reported

Virginia Democratic Sen. Scott A. Surovell, who originally sponsored the bill, used wrongful convictions and racial disparities in the application of the death penalty as reasons it should be abolished. 

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Republicans argued that there are some crimes that are so heinous that the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment.

Republican Sen. William M. Stanley Jr., who co-sponsored the bill, abstained from the vote due to the bill not having a mandate that life without parole would replace the death penalty. 

A Virginia House bill, similar to the Senate bill abolishing the death penalty, also passed Wednesday, but the bill did include a provision that said the death penalty would be replaced with a life sentence without parole, time off for good behavior or conditional release. 

Two Republicans joined 13 Democrats in the House to vote against the death penalty, while one Republican abstained and 6 voted for the death penalty. 

The two bills will need to reconcile that provision before Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who agrees with abolishing the death penalty, can sign off on it.