Virginia Gov. Northam Supports Ending ‘Inequitable’ Death Penalty as House Bill Passes


Gov. Ralph Northam (D) showed his support Friday as a bill that would end the death penalty in the state passed through a subcommittee in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“The use of capital punishment has been inequitable. The administration strongly supports HB 2263 and abolishing the death penalty. The Office of [Gov. Northam],” Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) said on Twitter, attributing the statement to Northam’s office.

Later, Mullin, who introduced the bill, tweeted that HB 2263 passed through the Criminal Courts of Justice Subcommittee, and will now move on for debate in the House Appropriations Committee.

With the support of Northam, Mullin introduced the bill earlier in January.

“It is long past time that we eliminate the use of the death penalty here in Virginia,” he said at the time. “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.”

Northam signaled his support for ending the death penalty in his 2021 State of the Commonwealth address, before the bill was first introduced.

“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,” he 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.”

He also said in his address that a person convicted of a crime is three times more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim is White, versus if this victim is Black.

A similar bill to eliminate the death penalty, SB 1165 was debated in the Virginia Senate Friday.

That bill was introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), and passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18.

But the debate continues on that bill, as at least one Republican in the Virginia Senate believes the death penalty should remain for some convicted criminals.

“On Thursday, state Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City) introduced a substitute that would permit the state to enforce the death penalty on those who killed law enforcement officers or was found guilty of multiple homicides,” WAVY reported.

There are currently two convicts on death row in Virginia. If the state outlaws the death penalty, their death sentences will be commuted to life without parole.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Abolish the Death Penalty Supporter” by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. CC BY-SA 2.0.









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One Thought to “Virginia Gov. Northam Supports Ending ‘Inequitable’ Death Penalty as House Bill Passes”

  1. Tim Price

    Democrats believe that criminals should have more rights that victims.