Why It’s So Significant That Virginia Looks Set To Abolish the Death Penalty

February 9, 2021

Virginia’s use of the death penalty dates back over 400 years—to 1608, when Jamestown settlers carried out the first recorded execution in the then-European colonies. In the centuries since, amid periods of slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow segregation, Virginia has executed hundreds of people; since 1976, Virginia has executed 113 people, a higher percentage of death row inmates than any other U.S. state, and the highest number of state executions second only to Texas.

But on Feb. 3 and 5 respectively, Virginia’s Democratic Senate and House of Delegates voted to abolish the state’s death penalty, and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he plans to sign the bill into law. This would make Virginia the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty.