RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty in Virginia.
Virginia became the 23rd state, and the first in the South, to stop executions through Bill 1165.
“Over our 400-year history, Virginia has executed more people than any other state,” said Northam. “The death penalty system is fundamentally flawed—it is inequitable, ineffective, and it has no place in this Commonwealth or this country.
We’ve compiled a list of statements and reactions from officials across the Commonwealth:
U.S. Senator for Virginia, Tim Kaine
I’m proud to see Virginia abolish this brutal and racist institution. Today, Virginia gives us hope that work done for justice is not in vain, and that progress is possible for all.— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) March 24, 2021
I will continue to push legislation in the Senate to end the death penalty at the federal level. https://t.co/k5j04jWPsk
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
“For too long Virginia had the shameful distinction as one of the states that most frequently imposed the death penalty. Now we are showing a better, more just way forward as the first state in the south to do away with it. Ending this practice is just one step in our ongoing, crucial work to reform the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system to make it more fair, equal and just for all Virginians.”
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan
In a joint statement for Virginia House Democrats, the three politicians said this:
“Virginia has taken another historic step today, one unthinkable just a few months ago. The Commonwealth may have a long, painful history with the death penalty, but our action this year is an example that change is not only possible, it is imperative, and other hold-out states around the country should follow.
This has been a long journey, and while the new Virginia Democratic majority rightly deserves credit for ending the death penalty with our vote and the Governor’s signature, this progress is foremost a reflection of where Virginians have stood for years. The fact is juries have stopped sentencing defendants to death. The death penalty no longer reflects Virginia’s values. The Democratic majority listened to our constituents and ended this outdated, inequitable, and inhumane practice. Finally.”
Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn
(2/5) The death penalty is an archaic symbol of our past, unequally used at a higher rate against Black Americans and with the advent of new technology we have seen that it has been prescribed far too often to innocent individuals.— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) March 24, 2021
(4/5) I applaud @GovernorVA, @MikeMullin4VA and all the other general assembly members who have advocated for the end of this practice for years and most of all the activists who dedicated their lives to making this day a reality.— Eileen Filler-Corn (@EFillerCorn) March 24, 2021
More reactions will be added as Virginia lawmakers and leaders publicly share their thoughts on the situation.