Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has voiced his support for a new bill introduced by state legislators to abolish capital punishment within the state.
On Wednesday, members of Virginia’s Senate and the House of Delegates introduced House Bill No. 1779 seeking to eliminate death sentences and to convert already existing capital sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Northam addressed racial justice and criminal sentencing reform at his 2021 State of the Commonwealth Address that he delivered Wednesday evening.
Make no mistake, if you commit the most heinous crimes, you should spend the rest of your days in prison. But here are the facts about the death penalty. Virginia has executed more people than any other state. More than 1,300 people. And here’s another truth: a person is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death when the victim is white than when the victim is Black.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also released a statement expressing his support of the bipartisan legislative efforts to end Virginia’s death penalty: “[the death penalty’s] abolition must be part of our work to reform a flawed and imperfect criminal justice system,” he said.
Virginia’s bill comes after the Trump administration ended a 17-year moratorium on federal executions and oversaw 10 executions in 2020 alone. On Wednesday, Lisa Montgomery—the only woman on federal death row—was executed for federal kidnapping resulting in death.
On Tuesday, US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and others announced the reintroduction of the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021, “bicameral legislation to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row.”