Virginia Becomes First Southern State To Abolish Death Penalty After Centuries Of Executions

by : Emily Brown on : 25 Mar 2021 13:23
Virginia Becomes First Southern State To Abolish Death Penalty After Centuries Of ExecutionsPA

Virginia has become the 23rd US state, and the first in the South, to abolish the death penalty. 

The historic law will go into effect in July after the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, signed the legislation on Wednesday, March 24.


The ruling makes Virginia the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty since the US Supreme Court reinstated the measure in 1976.

Virginia abolishes death penaltyPA Images

Speaking ahead of the signing at the Greensville Correctional Center, which is home to Virginia’s death chamber, Northam commented, ‘There is no place today for the death penalty in this commonwealth, in the South or in this nation.’

He continued:


We can’t give out the ultimate punishment without being 100% sure that we’re right. And we can’t sentence people to that ultimate punishment knowing that the system doesn’t work the same for everyone.

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As a result of the historic new law, two Virginia prison inmates who had previously been given the death sentence are set to have their punishment commuted to life imprisonment.

Northam added, ‘Make no mistake, if you commit the most serious of crimes, you will be punished. But Virginia can do that without continuing a system that gets it wrong even once.’


The signing of the law comes after lawmakers in the state passed the legislation in February following an emotionally-charged debate.

Democrats cited wrongful convictions and racial disparities in applying capital punishment as reasons to abolish the law, while some Republicans argued that the death penalty provides justice for the victims who suffered some of the worst crimes, CNN reports.

Figures from the Death Penalty Information Center show that Virginia has executed more than 1,300 people since the first recorded execution in 1608. Following the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976, Virginia carried out 113 executions.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, death penalty, death row, execution, Virginia


  1. CNN

    Virginia governor signs historic bill abolishing death penalty into law