Virginia, the state that carried out the most executions in the United States, on Wednesday (24) became the 23rd territory in the country to abolish the death penalty after Governor Ralph Northam (Democrat) signed the law prohibiting this practice.
The ban was a promise from Northam, who said this government “will not take any more lives” in a ceremony at Greensville Prison, where the state’s death row is located. “Justice and punishment are not always the same. We cannot inflict the final punishment without knowing if we are still right.
Virginia, which last carried out an execution in 2017, is the state that has used the death penalty the most. 1,390 prisoners have been executed since 1608, when it was still a British colony. The second is Texas, which became a state in 1846, with 1,325 executions.
However, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Texas has carried out 570 executions, while Virginia has used the law against 113 prisoners, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.
According to Northam, the practice was used disproportionately against blacks, who made up 296 (78.5%) of the 377 executed in the state in the 20th century – they made up 19.9% of the state’s population in 2019. , according to the American census.
Two men are now on death row, including Thomas Porter, convicted of murdering a police officer in 2005. The governor has said those on death row will remain in prison without parole.
The director of the death penalty program, Sarah Craft, applauded the abolition. “This is the latest action of a crushing blow to the death penalty, one of the most visible and blatant responses to the violence in our country,” he said in a statement sent to the Reuters news agency. “It is part of assessing our country with a broad and deep legacy of racial injustice.”
According to the Information Center on the Death Penalty, 27 other states and the federal government still adopt the death penalty. US President Joe Biden has taken on the post committed to abolishing federal executions.