Virginia set to become the first Southern state to end the practice
RICHMOND, VA—Delegate Mike Mullin’s measure to abolish the Death Penalty in Virginia (HB 2263) passed the Senate on February 22 with a vote of 22-16, sending the legislation to the Office of Governor Ralph Northam for further action. The bill would also convert the sentences of inmates currently on Virginia’s death row to sentences of life in prison without parole. Gov. Northam has stated his support for ending this practice in Virginia.
This vote continues Virginia on its track to becoming the first Southern state and the 23rd state in the United States to end the death penalty. Virginia has executed 1,389 people since 1608, 113 just since 1976, making Virginia second only to Texas in executions since the death penalty was reinstated, leading it to be considered a “heartland death penalty state.” Historically in Commonwealth, courts had disproportionately administered the death penalty in cases involving low-income and minority defendants.
House Democratic Leadership and the patron released the following statements:
“The House Democratic majority is dedicated to building a better Virginia, and we began by looking at areas where our code was outdated and cruel. Being a national leader in the number of executions is not a title to be proud of,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (who co-patroned the bill) and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “This practice is inhumane, expensive to implement, irreversible, and does not deter crime — which is why its use is fading around the world.”
“By abolishing the death penalty, Virginia is creating a new legacy for itself,” said Del. Mullin, the patron of HB 2263. “Never again will the Commonwealth run the risk of executing an innocent person. We should be guided by the tenets of justice, not vengeance.”