VADP Virtual Awards Luncheon featuring Sen. Tim Kaine

October 24, 2020

Seventy-two VADP supporters registered for this year’s annual awards luncheon that had to take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Keynote speaker Cassy Stubbs, ACLU Capital Punishment Project Director, gave an overview of the national death penalty abolition movement and the key role of Virginia in the campaign to end capital punishment.

Sen. Tim Kaine was a special guest who gave an overview of the federal death penalty and his work on national abolition legislation.

We also honored murder victim family member Rachel Sutphin with our Betty Gallagher Citizen Advocate of the Year award and Sen. Bill Stanley with our Legislator of the Year award. Both spoke about their personal commitments to end the death penalty in Virginia.

Enjoy the video and let us know if you have any questions.

Steady Progress Toward Abolition

August 11, 2020

scan of a newspaper article about death penalty repealGood news is especially rare and welcome during these tumultuous times in our nation.

In the last few weeks VADP has accelerated its messaging and abolition advocacy in the Commonwealth and nationally:

  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch carried VADP President Kristina Leslie’s op-ed, “Death penalty repeal is essential to racial healing” on July 2. “Nowhere is racial bigotry more insidious than in the application of America’s harshest punishment — death,” she writes. This piece was shared widely within the national death penalty abolition movement as a resource for other organizations.
    You can read the full text here
  • The Washington Post carried VADP Vice President Paul O’Shea’s op-ed, “The time has come to end Virginia’s death penalty” on July 26. “Capital punishment in Virginia can be erased in 2021, when the General Assembly considers and passes repeal legislation. It will be an historic step in acknowledging the systemic injury inflicted on Black Virginians over centuries,” he writes.
    You can read his op-ed here
  • VADP is joining forces with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) in an initiative to link the death penalty abolition movement with wider criminal justice reform. A newly created position, Criminal Justice Organizer, will focus on the African-American community, particularly religious leaders and their congregations. This individual will be located at the Interfaith Center, but will work in close collaboration with VADP. VICPP advocates for economic, racial, social and environmental justice in the Commonwealth.
  • Senator Tim Kaine was the featured speaker in a virtual VADP special event on July 30. He spoke about legislation he introduced in the Senate that would abolish the federal death penalty, and the three recent federal executions. The Senator is a long-time supporter of VADP and complimented us on the progress we are making in the Commonwealth. He indicated that once the national election has taken place, he would aid us with the repeal campaign in Virginia, as well as with efforts at national death penalty reform and abolition.

Prospects have never been better for ending capital punishment in Virginia. Our work over the past five years has produced growing political support for abolition among conservatives, murder victim family members, and prosecutors.

The widespread calls for criminal justice reform in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd earlier this year have inspired great support for abolition among numerous Virginia state legislators.

Our Senate abolition sponsor is confident that we have the votes to pass abolition in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. In the House of Delegates leaders in the Courts of Justice Committee have agreed to patron abolition.

We are working hard to ensure that there is majority support for death penalty abolition among House members. Field Director Dale Brumfield is arranging virtual meetings with members of the state legislature to discuss our campaign. So far we have spoken with 20 of the 100 Delegates with many more meetings scheduled in the coming weeks.

We are also proceeding with plans for our Annual Awards Luncheon that will be held virtually on Saturday, October 24. Look for more details soon.

We are pressing on, as we must, during these enormously challenging times. As always, we are grateful for your support.

The Key Role of Capital Defense Attorneys in the Death Penalty Abolition Movement

June 18, 2020

This was the fourth in a series of Abolition University education sessions for VADP supporters. This event focused on the Role of Capital Defense Attorneys in the Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

One national abolition leader and three capital defense attorneys in Virginia shared their stories for this session:

  • Henderson Hill, Senior Counsel for the ACLU Capital Punishment Project
  • Jerry Zerkin, Capital defense attorney
  • Ed Ungvarsky, Capital defense attorney
  • Kristina Leslie, Capital defense attorney

Henderson Hill gave a national overview of the great work being done by capital defense attorneys and how that work paves the way for ending capital punishment. Jerry, Ed, and Kristina shared their own experiences in death penalty cases here in Virginia.

Panel members also answered questions from participants in this one hour online session.

Enjoy the video and let us know if you have any questions.