RICHMOND, VA—Today, Virginia becomes the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty after Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 2263. Delegate Mike Mullin (D-93) patroned the bill, while House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring served as the co-patron and the House Democratic Caucus designated this legislation as a session priority.
Today’s action by the governor also makes the Commonwealth the 23rd state to officially remove the use of capital punishment. Virginia has executed 1,389 people since 1608, 113 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 the Commonwealth, courts had disproportionately administered the death penalty in cases involving low-income and minority defendants.
Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, House Majority Leader Herring, and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan released the following statement in response:
“Virginia has taken another historic step today, one unthinkable just a few months ago. The Commonwealth may have a long, painful history with the death penalty, but our action this year is an example that change is not only possible, it is imperative, and other hold-out states around the country should follow.
“This has been a long journey, and while the new Virginia Democratic majority rightly deserves credit for ending the death penalty with our vote and the Governor’s signature, this progress is foremost a reflection of where Virginians have stood for years. The fact is juries have stopped sentencing defendants to death. The death penalty no longer reflects Virginia’s values. The Democratic majority listened to our constituents and ended this outdated, inequitable, and inhumane practice. Finally.”