FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13th, 2020
Contact: Georgia Allin
Legislation Abolishing the Death Penalty Introduced in Virginia
Delegate Mike Mullin pushes for landmark legislation
RICHMOND, VA—Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) announced today that he is carrying legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia during the 2021 General Assembly legislative session, which began earlier today. HB 2263, along with its Senate counterpart SB 1165, will abolish the death penalty and convert existing capital sentences to sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“It is long past time that we eliminate the use of the death penalty here in Virginia. The death penalty is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, whose application is flawed with wrongful convictions, inadequate representation, geographic disparity, and racial bias. It is not a crime deterrent, but instead perpetuates a culture of violence that does not belong in the Commonwealth,” said Delegate Mullin. “I am proud to say this legislation is one of Governor Northam’s legislative priorities and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to ensure this bill becomes law.”
“I’m committed to abolishing the death penalty in Virginia, and I’m grateful to Delegate Mullin and Senator Surovell for their unwavering advocacy on this issue,” said Governor Ralph Northam.
The death penalty is an irrevocable punishment. There have been over 170 exonerations from death row nationwide since 1973. Nationally, at least one person is exonerated for every 11 that are executed. The Commonwealth’s continued use of the death penalty has the potential to kill innocent Virginians. A report from the National Research Council found that there is no evidence that capital punishment deters crime. According to a study by the DPIC, the South, which accounts for more than 80% of executions carried out in the United States, has consistently had the highest murder rate.
“The death penalty is an antiquated, expensive, inhuman punishment that should have been eliminated many years ago,” said Majority Leader Charniele Herring, a chief co-patron of the House bill. “I’m proud to be a part of the push to finally end the death penalty in Virginia.”
Racial prejudice plagues our criminal justice system and the application of capital punishment is no exception. As of 2019, Black Americans constituted about 13% of the U.S. population, but they accounted for over 40% of death row inmates.
“I believe deeply in my soul that the death penalty is abhorrent and must be abolished immediately,” said Delegate Jay Jones, a chief co-patron of the House bill. “The Commonwealth shouldn’t be in the business of killing its citizens, plain and simple, and it is time we meet the moment and end this despicable practice once and for all. It is no secret that this practice impacts Black citizens more than any other group, and this is not only alarming but a necessary reform to our justice system that treats every person fairly and similarly under the law.”
Maintaining capital punishment in the Commonwealth carries a high price tag for taxpayers. Reports and studies from across the country have repeatedly shown thatthe death penalty costs significantly more than life in prison without parole.
“Abolishing the death penalty is a priority for me this session. This effort will save taxpayers millions of dollars a year and it’s just the humane thing to do,” said Senator Scott Surovell, patron of SB 1165, the Senate companion bill. “It’s time for Virginia to join developed countries around the world and end this practice once and for all.”
Virginia has already begun to move away from the death penalty; the overwhelming majority of Virginia localities have not had an execution in over 50 years. It’s time for the Commonwealth to permanently relegate the death penalty to the history books.