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.

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.