The state of Virginia (United States) abolished the death penalty on Monday after voting in favor of both houses of the General Assembly of the territory.
Miami World / Infobae
Although the law still requires the signature of the state governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, he has already assured that he will sign it, which will make Virginia the 23rd state in the country to prohibit capital punishment.
Virginia’s Democratic majority, in control of the Legislature for a second year, lobbied for its repeal, arguing that the death penalty has been disproportionately applied to people from ethnic minorities, the mentally ill and the homeless. Republicans expressed concern for the victims and their families, stating that there are crimes so heinous that the perpetrators deserve to be executed.
The repeal of the death penalty occurs in the state that has most used this procedure to punish offenders. Since its days as a colony, it has executed nearly 1,400 people, according to the US Death Penalty Information Center.
In addition, Virginia was once the capital of the Confederate states and its application of the death penalty is linked to its history of slavery, with a majority of African Americans among those executed.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia, with 113 executions, ranks second after Texas, according to data cited by the American television network NBC.
Currently, two men remain on death row in Virginia: Anthony Juniper, sentenced to death in 2004 for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, two of his children and his brother, and Thomas Porter, sentenced for the crime of a police officer. Norfolk Police in 2005.
With the repeal of the death penalty, their sentences would become life imprisonment without parole.
After the favorable vote in both the House and the State Senate, Northam, together with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Eileen Filler-Corn, and the leader of the Senate Majority, Dick Saslaw, issued a statement in which they considered to the death penalty as “unjust, ineffective and inhumane”.
“It is time to stop this machinery of death,” they said, in a step they believe important to “ensure that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable for all.”
According to the Information Center on the Death Penalty, 17 people were executed in the United States in 2020.