In the U.S., the South has been executing more people than any other part of the nation. But the big news now is that in early February 2021 Virginia became the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty. Here are two articles about this:
Both chambers of the Virginia state legislature voted to abolish the state’s death penalty in early February 2021. Virginia has committed the most executions of any state other than Texas – a total of 113 since 1976, and hundreds more in the centuries prior. The links here were written shortly before Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the bill into law, which made Virginia the first southern state to abolish the death penalty.
I edited down an early February 2021 article from Equal Justice USA (www.ejusa.org) reporting on this: Virginia, a former Confederate state that has executed more people than any other state in the country, just voted to end the death penalty, with the House of Delegates passing an abolition bill 57-41. Virginia’s achievement today once again sounds the death penalty’s demise. But it does more than that. It shows the nation what must be done to reckon with our justice system’s deep-rooted racism. Over the past year, millions of Americans witnessed the murders of Black people by police, violent suppression of protests, and finally a spree of vicious executions by the last presidential administration. Virginia is taking action on our collective horror and will become an example for a nation that needs to reconcile.
Lawmakers — from both sides of the aisle — came together at the request of murder victims’ family members, civil rights leaders, clergy, and thousands of Virginians to put an end to the broken, failed, racist relic that is the death penalty. They did it in the memory of Jerry Givens, a former Virginia executioner who died last summer of COVID-19 after years of sharing his story of the trauma and regret of participating in executions. And they did it in the name of Earl Washington, Jr, a man with an intellectual disability who came within eight days of execution before he was exonerated — cleared of the crime for which he was about to be put to death.