United States: Will the death penalty be abolished soon in Virginia?

Is the trend in the United States regarding the death penalty changing? Virginia is another state that is on the way to ban it and it is no less important. It is where the capital of the Confederate States of America was located during the Civil War. And if the procedure initiated by two locally elected officials succeeds, Virginia would thus become the first southern state to ban capital punishment.

Since the death penalty was reintroduced in the United States in 1976, Virginia has been the second most executions state in the United States, with 113 compared to 570 in Texas. according to the Information Center on the Death Penalty

For two Democrats elected to the Virginia General Assembly, it is time to end this practice. The Delegate Mike Mullin and Senator Scott Surovell introduced a bill in their respective houses. His bill seeks to commute the death penalty to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

We have asked Senator Surovell to explain his initiative to us. “In 1993, I did an internship in the office of then-Governor Doug Wilder. That summer, we visited” death row, “the” death chamber, “and saw the electric chair. I found it disgusting and solidified my opposition to the penalty. capital”, he says.

The Democratic deputy states that it is “Very optimist” about the bill. The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week and the House of Delegates next. If both houses pass it, which according to the latest trends should be the case (Republican representatives have also voted in favor), it will have to be signed by the state governor and then it will go into effect. In this regard, Scott Surovell says he has the “support from Governor Northam”, also a Democrat.

The senator adds that “No court in Virginia has handed down the death penalty in almost a decade. Public opinion in the United States has changed very rapidly in the last ten years.”

Scott Surovell hopes that one day the death penalty will be abolished in the United States at the federal level. “The United States is the last Western country to allow this practice. Death sentences are increasingly rare. It’s only a matter of time.”, concludes.

The last execution in Virginia was in 2017. In this state, the statement is executed by lethal injection or electrocution.

The death penalty in the United States is on the decline …

Assuming this bill passes in Virginia in the next few weeks, a near balance would be struck between the states that have abolished it and those that still allow it.

A) Yes, capital punishment would cease to apply in 23 states, as well as in the D.C., where the federal capital, Washington is located.

On the contrary, death penalty would remain in force in 23 states. However, some states, such as Nevada, Kansas, Indiana y Wyoming, have not carried out executions for more than 10 years.

Finally, California (since 2019), Oregon (since 2011) and Pennsylvania (since 2015) they have decided to suspend the death penalty by introducing a delay in executions.

Since 1976, more than 1,500 people have been executed in the United States.

Regarding the sentences handed down, the number of death sentences has decreased considerably, from 295 in 1998 to 18 in 2020.

… but there are still thousands of convicts on death row

In addition to the more than 2,500 inmates on “death row” in state and state prisons, there are currently 49 people on death row in federal prisons across the country. The death penalty is also applied at the federal level by the military. There are currently four under sentence of death.

After more than 17 years of interruption, executions at the federal level resumed in July 2020, under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of the death penalty. The sentences were immediately carried out at a frantic pace. Thus, 10 people were executed in 2020. Three were executed in 2021, among them Lisa Montgoméry, the first federal execution of a woman in almost 70 years, and Corey Johnson, executed in Virginia on January 14, 2021.

Never in more than a hundred years has any federal administration practiced the death penalty as much as Trump’s, especially in the final months of the outgoing president’s term. Furthermore, federal executions in 2020 will have been far higher than the seven carried out in all states (three in Texas, one in Georgia, one in Missouri, one in Alabama and one in Tennessee).

The new White House tenant, Democrat Joe Biden, promised during his campaign to pass a law to “get rid of” capital punishment at the federal level, in the hope that this initiative would later be followed by the states. Elected members of Congress will have to debate the issue quickly. The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the balance of power in the Senate could confirm this campaign promise.

There are still several hundred executions a year in the world

In 2019, according to the NGO Amnesty International, at least 657 people have been executed in 20 countries. But the NGO adds that this total “It does not include the thousands of executions likely to have occurred in China.”

In Europe, at least two people have been executed in Belarus. In the other countries on the continent where the death penalty is still legal, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have not carried out any executions, by virtue of the suspension of the death penalty.