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Repeal of Virginia's death penalty headed to governor's desk

Emmett Hanger
Posted at 2:17 PM, Feb 22, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — State lawmakers have given final approval to legislation ending capital punishment in Virginia.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the legislation after lawmakers gave it final approval Monday.

It's a dramatic turnaround for a state that has executed more people in its history than any other state.

Virginia’s Democratic majority pushed the repeal effort, arguing that the death penalty has been applied disproportionately to people of color, the mentally ill and the indigent.

Republicans raised concerns about justice for victims, and said some perpetrators deserve to be executed for especially heinous crimes.

If signed into law, the legislation would make Virginia the 23rd state to stop executions.

The governor issued this statement regarding the legislation:

“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.

“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. It’s time we stop this machinery of death.

“Thanks to the vote of lawmakers in both chambers, Virginia will join 22 other states that have ended use of the death penalty. This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all.”