Virginia is one step closer to abolishing the death penalty after a bill to do so passed the Senate Thursday.
SB 1165 passed by a vote of 21-17 along party lines, with one GOP Senator, Bill Stanley (R-20th District) abstaining. Stanley originally co-sponsored the bill, but wanted to add a provision that would ensure murderers convicted of aggravated offenses would never be allowed out of prison.
He blasted the Democrats upon the bill’s passage.
“This could have been coming out today as a bipartisan effort to end the death penalty,” he reportedly said. “Instead it’s a party-line effort.”
The passage of the Senate version of the bill comes days after the passage through committee of its House counterpart.
Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) introduced HB 2263 with support from Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) office.
“The use of capital punishment has been inequitable. The administration strongly supports HB 2263 and abolishing the death penalty. The Office of [Gov. Northam],” Mullin said on Twitter earlier this week, attributing the statement to Northam’s office.
"The use of capital punishment has been inequitable. The administration strongly supports HB 2263 and abolishing the death penalty." The Office of @GovernorVA
— Delegate Mike 😷 Mullin (@mikemullin4VA) January 29, 2021
That bill now heads to the House floor.
Northam released a statement about SB 1165’s passage Thursday morning.
“Today’s vote in the Virginia Senate is a tremendous step toward ending the death penalty in our Commonwealth,” he said. “Virginia has executed more people than any other state. The practice is fundamentally inequitable. It is inhumane. It is ineffective. And we know that in some cases, people on death row have been found innocent.”
“It’s time for Virginia to join 22 other states and abolish the death penalty,” he continued. “I applaud every Senator who cast a courageous vote today, and I look forward to signing this bill into law.”
Both versions of the bill would apply the new law retroactively.
There are currently two death row convicts in the state of Virginia. Both would have their sentences commuted to life without parole if the bill becomes law.
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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 “Mike Mullin” by Mike Mullin. Background Photo “House of Delegates” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.