Governor Ralph Northam to sign landmark legislation abolishing the death penalty

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Gov. Ralph Northam will sign an executive order banning elective surgeries across the Commonwealth until further notice. (WYDaily/ Screenshot of Governor of Virginia's Facebook page)
Gov. Ralph Northam will sign historic legislation abolishing the death penalty in Virginia. (WYDaily/ Screenshot of Governor of Virginia’s Facebook page)

RICHMOND — On Wednesday, March 24, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign a bill which will abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

According to his public schedule, Northam will tour the death chamber located at Jarratt’s Greensville Correctional Center. From the center, he will then sign the legislation at 2 p.m.

Virginia will become the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty. According to the Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (VADP) ‘s website, over 1,300 people have been executed in the Commonwealth since 1608. Virginia has one of the highest rate of executions, only second to Texas. 

For Neva Herrington, this has been a long, hard fought battle. “The death penalty is just another homicide. It doesn’t work,” she said in a March 24 interview.

After Ms. Herrington’s daughter, Elizabeth, was murdered in 1994, she started to think heavily about capital punishment and came to the realization that she did not support it. Ms. Herrington went on to become an advocate for alternatives to the death penalty. To read more about Neva Herrington’s story, click here.

While Virginia hasn’t issued the death penalty since 2011, the Commonwealth has executed over 100 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. 

RELATED STORY: Virginia is on its way to abolishing the death penalty. Meanwhile, a mother shares both grief and relief.

VADP, an organization that advocates for ending the death penalty, will have a “small delegation” at the signing this afternoon and VADP Board Vice-President Jayne Barnard will deliver a prepared statement

“Thirty years ago, in 1991, the Virginia execution chamber was moved to this site,” the statement reads. “One hundred and one people were put to death in this facility.”

The statement continues to explain how the organization made steps towards ending the “state-sponsored killings.”

In January, VADP sent a letter along with a signed petition entitled, “Virginia Murder Victim Family Members Call for Death Penalty Abolition,” to the Virginia General Assembly. 

The state senate passed the abolition bill this past February.

Barnard plans to thank local religious leaders, capital defense attorneys, and murder victim family members for their work in the abolition movement, too. 

“Criminal justice funding or expensive capital murder trials can now be better spent on much needed and currently underfunded support programs that help victims’ families with funeral costs, counseling and other services,” according to prepared statement. “This is an historic day for Virginia.”

“Today we become the first Southern state to end capital punishment,” the statement noted “We will certainly not be the last to do so.”

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