Northam to Sign Death Penalty Repeal Bill

February 22, 2021 by TWN Staff
Virginia State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, front, looks at the vote tally board during a vote on a death penalty abolition bill at the Senate session at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Va., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. The Senate passed the bill 22-16. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Monday to a bill that will end capital punishment in the Commonwealth.

The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has said he will sign it into law, making Virginia the 23rd state to stop executions.

In a joint statement, Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, said: “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.”

Virginia’s Democratic majority, in control of the General Assembly for a second year, pushed the repeal effort, arguing that the death penalty has been applied disproportionately to people of color, the mentally ill and the indigent.
Republicans in the chamber raised concerns about justice for victims and their family members, and said there are some crimes that are so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be executed.

Both the House and Senate approved separate repeal bills earlier this month.

On Monday morning, the Senate approved the House bill, advancing it to Northam on a 22-16 vote. Republican Sen. Jill Vogel joined with Democrats in the chamber in voting for passage. Later, on Monday afternoon, the House voted 57-43 to approve the Senate version, which is identical to the House bill.

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