The Bulletin

Virginia’s legislature is a procedural vote away from passing legislation abolishing death penalty  

By: - February 5, 2021 12:12 pm

(Alex Potemkin/Getty Images)

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 57-41 Friday to abolish the death penalty.

The Senate passed identical legislation on Wednesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam has not only said he’ll sign it, but has championed the issue.

Which is all to say, Virginia is very close to finalizing legislation that would make the state the first in the South to end capital punishment.

Each chamber’s version of the bill now heads to opposite chamber for a final vote before it goes to Northam’s desk. Given that there is no difference between the House and Senate versions, the steps are unlikely to present a roadblock.

“The death penalty is immoral, racially biased, ineffective, and costly. What keeps me up at night is that we run the risk of executing an innocent person,” said Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, who carried the legislation in the House.

Republicans largely opposed the bill, outlining a litany of gruesome murders and arguing some crimes are so horrific that they merit execution.

But unlike in the Senate, the legislation ended up winning modest bi-partisan support in the House, with three GOP lawmakers joining Democrats in supporting the bill: Dels. Carrie Coyner and Roxanne Robinson, both of Chesterfield, and Del. Jeff Campbell of Smyth.

One Democrat, Del. Delores McQuinn of Richmond, did not vote.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.