RICHMOND — In one of his last acts before leaving office last week, former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam donated several instruments related to the Commonwealth’s history with legalized execution to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond.
In March 2021, Gov. Northam signed historic legislation which brought an end to the death penalty in Virginia, making the Commonwealth the first southern state to do so. Throughout its history, the Commonwealth has recorded executing 1,300 prisoners; more than any other state.
“This action closes the era of state-sponsored execution in Virginia,” said former Governor Northam. “The Commonwealth asked the Museum to accept these items, as they have the curatorial expertise to appropriately manage and interpret such materials. The Commonwealth’s history of using capital punishment is an important part of history, and the Museum is focused on telling Virginia’s full and true story for future generations.”
One of the items donated was a 114-year-old oak electric care which is reported to have executed 267 people. The former Governor’s office notes that, in 1908, it was installed at the Virginia State Penitentiary on Spring Street in Richmond and later moved to the Greensville Correctional Center. Though Virginia moved towards executing prisoners by means of lethal injection starting in 1995, the chair remained in place.
Another item that was donated was described as a medical gurney that was used at the Greensville Correctional Center to execute prisoners by means of lethal injection. Noted on the table are leather straps used to restrain prisoners for the procedure.
The items were donated along with the news that former Gov. Northam commuted the sentences of two death row inmates, Thomas Porter and Anthony Juniper, to life in prison. The commutation noted that these sentences do not include the possibility of parole, good conduct allowance, earned sentence credits, nor conditional release.