Washington, Mar 24 (efe-epa).- Virginia on Wednesday became the first former confederate US state to end capital punishment, after having executed more people than any other jurisdiction in the country.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, signed into law the abolition bill that was passed by the state legislature, which argued that the death penalty disproportionately affected people of color, the poor and the mentally ill.
“Today Virginia becomes the first Southern state to end this practice. We join 22 other states in saying the government will not take a life, the government will no longer execute people,” Northam said.
“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 and a system that doesn’t work the same for everyone that encounters it,” he added.
Virginia thus became the 23rd state, out of 50, to abolish the death penalty in the US.
In Virginia in 1608, Captain George Kendall, who was accused of spying, was the first execution performed by European colonists in what is now the US.
More than four centuries later, in 2017, the state ended the life of William Morva, the last put to death in Virginia.
Since colonial times, Virginia has executed nearly 1,400 people, more than any other state, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).
With 113 executions since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976, during what is considered the modern period of capital punishment in the US, only Texas surpasses Virginia in executions.
“No state that has relied so heavily on capital punishment has ever before repealed its death penalty,” the DPIC said in a statement.
With capital punishment now terminated, Virginia has commuted the sentences of the only two prisoners left on death row to life imprisonment – Anthony Juniper, convicted of murdering four people, including two girls, and Thomas Porter, convicted of killing a police officer.
Former president Donald Trump last year ended a 17-year federal execution moratorium, leading to the executions of about 13 people in his last months in office.
President Joe Biden promised to end the federal death penalty during his presidential campaign but has so far not acted on it. EFE-EPA