Posted by 05 February 2021
The Virginia legislature voted this week to abolish capital punishment in the state.
The House of Delegates supported a death penalty repeal bill this week, following prior action in the State Senate. The House vote was largely along partisan lines, with all the Democrats supporting it and all but two Republicans opposing it. The two chambers passed slightly different versions of the bill, with one containing language that allows judges to impose a maximum sentence of life without parole while the other allows for parole in limited instances. A conference committee will reconcile these differences. Once a final version of the legislation passes the legislature, Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign it.
Upon enactment of this bill, Virginia will be the first Southern state to end the use of capital punishment. There has been a movement across U.S. states to abolish the death penalty, but its use has survived in the South. With Democrats now controlling the legislature and governorship in Virginia, that state is set to break with its neighbors on this issue.
Supporters of ending the death penalty contend that it is a barbaric practice that has no place in civilized society. They also say that innocent people may be put to death. Opponents of repeal say that there are some crimes so heinous that they deserve to be punished by death. They argue that ending the death penalty will send the wrong message to criminals.
Do you think states should stop using capital punishment?