On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation to abolish the death penalty.
According to The Associated Press, Virginia holds America’s record for most executions, having placed almost 1,400 prisoners to death since it was a colony and has executed 113 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.
AP reported that Virginia became the 23rd state in the U.S. to end capital punishment last month when Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates approved the bill.
Delegate Mike Mullin wrote the legislation that got approved, according to 6 News Richmond.
In an interview with News 6, Mullin stated, “Virginia juries are given an opportunity to put somebody to death at least once a month here in Virginia.”
He added, “And they declined to do so for 11 years. It’s not for lack of opportunity. Instead, Virginia juries don’t want to issue the death penalty, even when they’ve been given the opportunity.”
Mullin asked, “What do you say to the last innocent person who’s been executed?”
“What do you say to their family if after we put them to death, we find out that they were innocent? Not saying that there aren’t bad people in prison, and there aren’t bad people out there. But if we put someone to death and then find out later that they’re innocent, we can’t unmake that.”
A report from the Death Penalty Information Center in 2019 revealed that 52 percent of inmates on death row are Black. The study also stated that “since executions resumed in 1977, 295 African-Americans defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 21 white defendants have been executed for the murder of an African-American victim.”
Northam reflected on statistics that proved Black Virginians are much more likely to face the death penalty, and he decided it was time to act.
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