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United States : Virginia votes to abolish the death penalty

On Friday, February 5, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to end the death penalty practiced in the state since 1608. This is a historic step, not only because Virginia will be the 23rd US state to abolish the death penalty, but also because it will be the first state in the South to abolish it.

The Democratic-led House of Delegates voted 57-41 in favour of ending the death penalty. The Senate passed it earlier this week, and Governor Ralph Northam said he would sign the repeal into law.

During the vote, some Democratic lawmakers stated that they support the abolition of this practice because it is used disproportionately and discriminates against black people. It is stated that the risk of execution of a wrongly convicted persons also justifies the abolition of the death penalty.

With two people still on death row in Virginia, the state carried out his last execution in 2017.

The decision to abolish the death penalty in Virginia is important for several reasons. The state, which was the first in the country to carry out an execution in 1608, will be the 23rd state in the United States, but also the first southern state to abolish capital punishment. By 2020, Colorado had become the 22nd US state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

See our interactive map to find out more about the death penalty in the United States

The successful passage of the abolition legislation is the result of many years of campaigning as well as declining public support for capital punishment in the United States.

By 2020, the United States had carried out a wave of federal executions under Donald Trump’s government, ending a 17-year moratorium. Joe Biden, who took office on 20 January, formally committed to the abolition of the death penalty at the federal level.