Will Virginia Be The 23rd State to Abolish the Death Penalty?

Maddy Navarrete, Staff Reporter

On Feb. 3,  the Virginia Senate voted 22-16 to approve a bill that would end the state’s enforcement of the death penalty. After being passed on to the Governor, on Mar. 24, Gov. Northam signed the historic bill and has abolished the death penalty.

“It’s time we stop this machinery of death,” Gov. Northam said in a joint statement with House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. 

The first execution by Europeans in the colonies took place in Jamestown, Virginia. The Commonwealth has executed 1,400 people, a number only second to Texas.  If the bill is approved, it would take effect in July of this year, resulting in  the resentencing to life in prison without parole for those currently on death row. As a result, Anthony Juniper and Thomas A. Porter, who have both committed capital murder, would be taken off death row and granted life without parole.

Jerry Givens, former executioner who performed 62 executions in Virginia, became an activist against the death penalty. When making public appearances, Givens spoke about how the executions took a toll on his emotional and psychological health. 

“How can I be myself? I’m not a natural killer,” Givens told Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2007.

Opposers of this bill argue that the death penalty is in place to serve as punishment but also grant the solace of justice to the victims and their families. Supporters of the bill say that the death penalty is inhumane and pure cruelty.