State Watch

Virginia lawmakers send death penalty ban to governor, who plans to sign it

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Virginia’s state Senate on Monday passed a bill already approved by the House of Delegates that would make the state the 23rd in the nation to ban the death penalty, The Associated Press reported.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who is expected to sign it.  

Del. Michael Mullin (D), the House bill’s sponsor, told Time magazine that support for the bill’s passage was due in large part to Northam addressing the issue during his January State of the Commonwealth address.

“There have been people who have put abolition forward for the better part of four decades,” Mullin told the news outlet. “But we’ve never had a governor who went out forcefully and with a full-throated approach to abolish the death penalty.”

Northam in a statement earlier this month said the death penalty is “fundamentally inequitable.” 

“It is inhumane. It is ineffective. And we know that in some cases, people on death row have been found innocent,” he added.

Virginia has not executed any inmates on death row since 2017, when two were put to death. The expected ban comes as death penalty opponents have decried a spree of federal executions that took place in the final months of the Trump administration, while petitioning President Biden to halt further executions at the federal level.

“Today Virginia made history by becoming the first state in the south poised to repeal the death penalty,” the ACLU of Virginia, which opposes the death penalty, said in a statement Monday.

“We are grateful that our legislators finally acted to abolish this racist and inhumane practice. As we celebrate, we acknowledge that it is thanks to the collective work of so many advocates and organizations over many years that delivered this victory for justice today,” the organization added.


Tags death penalty Joe Biden Ralph Northam Virginia

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