Virginia Becomes First Southern State To Abolish Death Penalty

Gov. Ralph Northam says "it is the moral thing to do.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday (March 24) signed a bill into law abolishing the death penalty in the state.

The signing comes after the Democratic-controlled legislature passed the measure late last month.

"It is the moral thing to do to end the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Northam, according to NPR.

Northam, also a Democrat, held the ceremonial bill signing at the Greensville Correctional Center just outside Jarratt, Virginia.

RELATED: Philadelphia Refuses To Compensate Black Man Who Was Wrongfully Convicted And On Death Row For 25 Years

Virginia is the first state in the former Confederacy to cease capital punishment. The commonwealth has put to death more people than any other state since the first execution took place at Jamestown in 1608.

Michael Stone, executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty says George Floyd’s death really added fuel to make change when it comes to reforming criminal justice.

"The Black Lives Matter protests turbocharged the move toward criminal justice reform in general and death penalty abolition in particular," Stone said, according to NPR.

Northam thanked his colleagues for passing the bill for him to sign: "Virginia will join 22 other states that have ended use of the death penalty. This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all."

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