Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) has introduced HB 2263, which would abolish the death penalty in Virginia. The bill has attracted support from leading Democratic policy makers; co-patrons of the bill are House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), attorney general candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), gubernatorial candidate Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), and 40-year House member Delegate Ken Plum (D-Fairfax). In his 2021 State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam also advocated ending the death penalty.
In a press release, Mullin said, “It is long past time that we eliminate the use of the death penalty here in Virginia. The death penalty is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, whose application is flawed with wrongful convictions, inadequate representation, geographic disparity, and racial bias. It is not a crime deterrent, but instead perpetuates a culture of violence that does not belong in the Commonwealth.”
In his address, Northam said, “But when we all agree that a crime deserves the strongest punishment we can give, it’s still vital to make sure our criminal justice system operates fairly and punishes people equitably.”
Northam said, “We know the death penalty doesn’t do that. But make no mistake—if you commit the most heinous crimes, you should spend the rest of your days in prison. But here are the facts about the death penalty. Virginia has executed more people than any other state—more than 1,300 people. And here’s another truth: a person is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death when the victim is white, than when the victim is Black.”
Attorney general candidate Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) told The Virginia Star, “What frustrates me is what the proponents are saying is, ‘Well, we believe in life without the possibility of parole.’ But we have already seen that life without the possibility of parole does not mean the same thing to the general public. Because the Democrats control the parole board, they let murderer after murderer out back on our street that were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.”
Miyares said that while he believes the death penalty should be used rarely, there are situations where it is appropriate.
“Vincent Martin, cop killer, executed Michael Connors, shot him four times in the head, execution style. [He] was given life without the possibility of parole. He’s back on our streets,” Miyares said. “Gregory Joyner raped, strangled, and murdered 15-year-old Sarah Jamison, buried her in a shallow grave, they didn’t find her for weeks later. He was given life without the possibility of parole. He’s back on our streets.”
“So they may claim that they want these criminals locked up and never see the light of day. The problem is that we’ve already seen with the Democratic parole board that these criminals get back on our streets,” Miyares said.
Miyares said the bill is another example of Democrats prioritizing criminals over victims.
“As a former prosecutor, I can tell you, this is unconscionable what they’re doing to the victims,” he said. “And they’re ignoring the victims. They’re ignoring the family that has lost a loved one to a heinous criminal violent act. And that’s probably the other tragedy, is that they thought they had closure and now they don’t have closure.”
According to Miyares, HB 2263 is likely to pass; Republicans lack the power to block it.
“[Virginians should] call their delegates and call their senators and say, ‘No, we want you to actually vote on measures that are going to keep us safe. I mean look, at the end of the day, there’s two ways for them to effect change. One, they need to call their delegates and senators and let it be known,” Miyares said. “The second is, elections matter. [Constituents] need to be involved and engaged and realize that the General Assembly, the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general are all on the ballot. They can make their voices be heard that way.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mike Mullin” by Mike Mullin. Background Photo “House of Delegates” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.