Gov. Northam will introduce bill to end death penalty in Virginia

January 13, 2021

Gov. Ralph Northam will be introducing a bill to abolish the death penalty that, if successful, would make Virginia the first Southern state to end capital punishment.

“I understand about timing and I suspect this is the year to end the death penalty in Virginia,” Northam told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday.

“I’ve felt strongly about this for a long time,” the governor said. “We’ve been doing so much good work on equity, especially criminal justice reform, and we have the majority in the House and the Senate.”

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Virginia’s Racist History With the Death Penalty Could Finally End

January 5, 2021

A nearly 300-year-old practice could be put to rest this month, as Virginia’s General Assembly considers ending the death penalty.. Del. Lee Carter (D – Manasses) introduced a bill to end the practice last week.

“This is about ending a barbaric practice that brings with it the possibility of the most extreme injustice that the state can levy. [That is], ending someone’s life and then finding out later that they didn’t do it,” Carter said.

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A Preview of the 2021 Virginia Legislative Session

For the past four months, VADP and our allies have been working diligently to increase support among Virginia legislators for the death penalty repeal. That work has been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which greatly restricts our ability to meet in person with state legislators.

Nevertheless, we are cautiously optimistic that there will be sufficient votes to pass abolition legislation during the upcoming session.

Senator Scott Surovell (D-District 36) is the chief patron of the Senate bill, SB 1165. The bill’s chief co-patron will be Senator Bill Stanley (R-District 20). This bipartisan leadership may be increased by as many as ten additional co-patrons.

One abolition bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates, but several more have been filed. We anticipate that the chief patron will be a leading member of the Courts of Justice Committee.

However, this will be a legislative session like no other.

The House of Delegates and the Senate will meet remotely or in a sequestered space. There will be no opportunity for lobbyists or constituents to provide information and guidance.

There is a great deal of partisan rancor about the length of the session. At issue are plans for traditional 45-day sessions, or it could be shortened to just 30 days. A longer period would serve us more favorably, since it would give us more time to play a role in advancing legislation.

You can be sure that we are doing everything we can to ensure that abolition bills in both houses of the legislature are debated and passed with bipartisan support. Still, with so much uncertainty, abolition bills may be postponed until 2022.

With your help, we will convince additional legislators that it is time for Virginia to become the first Southern state to reject capital punishment.