Richmond, Va. – State lawmakers gave final approval to the law on Monday, which would end the death penalty in Virginia, a dramatic change for a state that has killed more people in its long history than any other.
The law repealing the death penalty is now the head of the Democratic Government. Ralph Northam, who has said he would sign it into law, became the 23rd state to ban Virginia from hanging.
Rachel Sutphin, whose father, Cpl, said, “The realization that the time has come to end this old practice causes more harm to the family members of the victims than to provide us any comfort or consolation.” ” Eric Sutfin was badly shot in 2006 while working for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
William Morva, convicted of the murder of Eric Sutfin, was killed in 2017. Two years later, Rachel Sutfin was one of 13 members of the murder victims’ family, sending a letter to the General Assembly asking lawmakers to abolish capital punishment.
Rachel Sutfin said, “By voting for abolition, we are showing the way, if Virginia – the state with the longest history and killed the most people – if we can do that, then in other states as well.”
Virginia’s new Democratic majority pushed the repeal effort into full control of the General Assembly for a second year, arguing that the death penalty was inconsistently applied to people of color, the mentally ill, and indigestion has gone.
“It is important that our criminal justice system operates impartially and punishes people equally. We all know that the death penalty does not do this. It is inconsistent, ineffective and inhumane, ”Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslav said in a joint statement after the votes.
Republicans voiced concern about justice for the victims and their family members, saying there are some crimes that are so heinous that the perpetrators are eligible to be executed.
Only two men remain on Virginia’s death row. Anthony Juniper was sentenced to death in 2004 for killing his ex-girlfriend, her two children, and her brother. Thomas Porter was sentenced to death in 2005 for the murder of a Norfolk police officer. The repeal law would change his sentence to life without parole in prison.
During a virtual house debate on Monday, Republican Dell. Rob Bell horribly described those murders and said that Porter and Juniper would be watching the vote from prison with special interest.
“We have five dead Virgins who will ensure this bill that their killers do not get justice,” Bell said.
Porter, Juniper and their families have declined to comment through the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center Executive Director, Rob Lee.
“By abolishing the death penalty, government, political and moral leaders have taken a long overdue action to make Virginia a fair and more commonwealth,” Lee said in a statement.
The passage of the law was the latest in a long list of comprehensive policy changes implemented by Democrats, which are steadily increasing new look Old Dominion is in an outlying area to the south on racial, social and economic issues.
Last year, lawmakers passed some of the region’s strictest gun laws, comprehensive LGBTQ protections, its highest minimum wage and some of its lowest abortion restrictions. This year too, lawmakers are taking progressive measures one after the other.
But the death penalty bill marked a particularly stark reversal in a state where proceedings took place under both Republican and Democratic governors over the past decade. The state legislature and state officials have also served in recent years protected Virginia’s ability to execute and meet limits Transparency Around the process.
Last year too, the abolition of the death penalty bill went nowhere.
On Monday, the two chambers approved separate but equally repealed bills. The Senate approved a House bill, which advises Northam on a 22–16 vote. Republican Sen. Jill Vogel joined the Democrats in the chamber for passage. Later on Monday, House Democrats and two GOP members, Dale Jeff Campbell and Dale Carrie Corner, voted to approve the Senate version, 57–43.
According to his spokesman, no date has been set for when the governor will sign it.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, historically Virginia has used the death penalty more than any other state, killing about 1,400 people since its days as a colony. Since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia ranks second after Texas, with 113 executions.
Michael Stone, executive director of Virginia for the Alternative for Death Penalty, called for the vote to end a historic moment in the state’s history.
“We hope that Virginia will set a precedent for other states from the old Union to take this bold step towards humanitarian reform of our legal justice system.”
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