Feb 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Virginia set to abolish the death penalty

The Virginia State Capitol. Virginia legislators on Friday voted to abolish the state's death penalty. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Virginia State Capitol. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Virginia lawmakers on Monday gave their final approval to legislation that will abolish capital punishment in the state.

Why it matters: The measure now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has said he will sign it into law. Once signed, Virginia will become the first southern state and the 23rd state nationwide to end capital punishment.

  • Democrats, who control of the state's legislature, pushed for the repeal.

The big picture: Virginia has executed a higher percentage of its death row prisoners than any other state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

  • Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, only Texas has executed more people.
  • Just two men remain on Virginia's death row, per AP.

What they're saying: “It is vital that our criminal justice system operates fairly and punishes people equitably. We all know the death penalty doesn’t do that. It is inequitable, ineffective, and inhumane," Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said in a joint statement Monday.

  • “Over Virginia’s long history, this Commonwealth has executed more people than any other state. And, like many other states, Virginia has come too close to executing an innocent person," they added.
  • "It’s time we stop this machinery of death."
  • “This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all.”
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