‘It’s just another person dead’: Fight to end Virginia’s death penalty gaining momentum

Montgomery County Cpl. Eric Sutphin was killed in 2006

Virginia ranks second in the country for most executions since 1976.

RICHMOND, Va. – Efforts to end the death penalty in Virginia are moving forward in the General Assembly.

Eliminating capital punishment would be a future much different than its past. The commonwealth ranks second in the country for most executions since 1976.

“To me, it seems like an unjust system,” said Rachel Sutphin, who supports abolishing the death penalty.

Sutphin is among those backing Senate Bill 1165 and House Bill 2263. Removing the death penalty from Virginia is something she’s been pushing for since the Commonwealth’s most recent execution of William Morva in 2017.

Morva was sentenced to death for murdering a hospital security guard and a Montgomery County deputy in 2006. That deputy, Cpl. Eric Sutphin, was Rachel’s father.

“Executing someone does not bring back my father. It does not make up for the lengthy 10-year trial. Instead, it’s just another person dead,” Sutphin said.

She couldn’t stop Morva’s death but continued her fight to end a punishment she calls outdated, ineffective and said brought her no closure.

On the other side, the Virginia State Police Association is encouraging lawmakers to keep the death penalty as an option for more heinous crimes.

“A more reasoned approach would be to slow down and take these one crime at a time rather than just this blanket approach,” said Wayne Huggins, executive director of the Virginia State Police Association. “The person that would kill a police officer, would murder a police officer would not hesitate to kill just an average citizen and we just think that’s a terrible message to send.”

Sutphin; however, thinks it would send a bold message, encouraging other states to follow suit.

“I view my father’s legacy as someone who fought to preserve life and for me, advocating against the death penalty is my way of seeking to preserve life,” explained Sutphin.

The bill has support from Gov. Ralph Northam and is currently being amended in the Senate.

Fifty-six percent of Virginia voters support repealing the death penalty, according to a new poll from Christopher Newport University released Tuesday,

About the Author:

Jessica anchors 10 News on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 and 11 p.m. You can also catch her reporting during the week.