The general assembly of the US state of Virginia decided on Monday in favor of the abolition of the death penalty. Approved in this first phase, the project will still have to pass through the hands of Democratic Governor Ralph Norman, but he has already made his position clear, in favor of change. Everything indicates that, starting in July, Virginia will be the first southern state to join the other 22 in the rest of the country that have already put an end to capital punishment.
“Throughout Virginia’s long history, this state has executed more people than any other and has been too close to executing an innocent person,” said ruler Norman, quoted by Washington Post. “It is time to end this death machine”, he assured.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives of Virginia approved identical versions of the bill, which earlier this month had already been exchanged between them, with 22 votes in favor and 16 against, and 57 versus 43, respectively.
The legislation now passes into the hands of the governor, who will receive it “in a few days”, according to his spokeswoman, Alena Yarmlosky, in statements to the CNN. If Ralph Norman goes ahead with the signing of the bill, executions will be banned once and for all in Virginia and a maximum limit for prison sentences will be set, although it does not allow shortening the terms for parole. This was one of the few things that the Republican Party managed to keep in law.
Only one Republican in the House of Representatives voted in favor of abolition, arguing the party that the victims of “qualified homicides” and other serious crimes were being devalued. “I have yet to show … some concern for the victims of the crimes. This should concern all Virgos, ”he said. the congressman Todd Gilbert, leader of the republican minority in the state congress, cited by Washington Post.
Also in the Senate there were efforts on the part of the Republicans to maintain the death penalty in cases of “heinous crimes” and “shocking crimes”, but the will to end “acts of revenge” ended up leading to the final decision.
“We are not a nation of emotions,” announced Chris L. Hurst, a Democratic congressman. “We don’t need to be a society that determines whether or not there is an eye for an eye.” Adding the Democrats as an argument that there is always the possibility that an innocent person could be unjustly condemned.
The discussion took a long time, but the final decision is also framed by this idea several times underlined by Democrats that the executions are associated with a strong past of racial injustice: between 1900 and 1999, Virginia executed 296 blacks and 79 whites. From 1900 until the decision of the US Supreme Court in 1977 to declare the death penalty unconstitutional in crimes where there were no deaths, Virginia had executed 73 black men for rape, attempted rape or robbery and no white.
In total, since 1608, when a Spanish spy was first subjected to the death penalty in the colony of Jamestown, almost 1,400 people have been executed in Virginia alone, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976, when the US Supreme Court again allowed the death penalty after a ten-year break, 113 people have been executed in the state, above only Texas.