Virginia state lawmakers on Monday officially voted in favor of legislation that will end the death penalty in the state, making the commonwealth the 23rd state to do so.
“It is vital that our criminal justice system operates fairly and punishes people equitably,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said in a joint statement Monday. “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 executive an innocent person. It’s time we stop this machinery of death.”
The legislation now heads to Northam’s desk, who has signaled his willingness to sign it. (RELATED: Firing Squads, The Electric Chair And A Drug Cocktail: The State Of The Death Penalty In America)
With final passage in the Virginia House and Senate, our Commonwealth will soon join 22 states in abolishing the death penalty—an important step in ensuring our criminal justice system is fair and equitable.
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 22, 2021
Virginia has a lengthy history when it comes to the death penalty, carrying out what is believed to be the first execution in what is now known as the U.S. in the case of Captain George Kendall in 1608. Since its inception, Virginia has executed more than 1,300 people, the most of any state, according to Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
With the passing of this legislation, Virginia is now the first former Confederate state to abolish the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.