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Crime Virginia lawmakers push to abolish death penalty

03:56  14 january  2021
03:56  14 january  2021 Source:   abcnews.go.com

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The push is backed by Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty , along with some powerful voices: loved ones of murder victims. Thirteen family members sent a letter to the General Assembly in November asking lawmakers to abolish the death penalty .

But Virginia was still preparing to execute a killer on Wednesday. Virginia does not abolish death penalty . Barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Death penalty opponents argue that the drugs used in execution procedures do not always work as quickly as intended and inmates are subjected to

Virginia state lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would abolish the state's death penalty.

a bedroom with a bed and desk in a room: The gurney in which convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad will be put to death at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. © Virginia Department of Corrections via Getty Images, FILE The gurney in which convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad will be put to death at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.

Virginia House of Delegates member Mike Mullin and state Sen. Scott Surovell introduced bills to their respective houses that would abolish the death penalty and convert existing capital sentences to sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Mullin said in a statement that the use of capital punishment "is flawed with wrongful convictions, inadequate representation, geographic disparity, and racial bias."

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"The death penalty has been an issue every New Hampshire legislator has grappled with over many years," Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said in a statement after the historic vote. "It was a privilege today to join my colleagues in voting to repeal capital punishment in the Granite State."

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"It is not a crime deterrent, but instead perpetuates a culture of violence that does not belong in the Commonwealth," he said in a statement.

a bedroom with a bed and a chair in a room: The gurney in which convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad will be put to death at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. © Virginia Department of Corrections via Getty Images, FILE The gurney in which convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad will be put to death at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.

As of October 2020, Virginia had executed 113 people since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks death row inmates. Only Texas has had more executions during that period, with 570, according to the DPIC.

Eleven out of the 14 executions carried out by the federal government up to October 2020 have taken place in the last two years, the DPIC said. At least four other federal executions have taken place since October, including the first woman executed since 1953.

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That push to abolish the death penalty has earned support among conservative lawmakers , and Pope Francis's declaration against the death penalty “I promised my daughter — I talk to her a lot — I said, ‘Listen, I’m working hard down here to end the death penalty , but I need you to pull some

Pat Quinn intends Wednesday to abolish Illinois' death penalty more than a decade after one of his Republican predecessors enacted a moratorium that has prevented executions for But death penalty opponents argued that there was still no guarantee that an innocent person couldn't be put to death .

Virginia prisoners on death row are executed by lethal injection, however, the prisoner can choose electrocution, according to state law.

MORE: Federal government in 2020 executed more prisoners than all 50 states: Death penalty research group

Virginia hasn't executed anyone since 2017 and most Virginia counties haven't had an execution in 50 years, according to data from the DPIC. There are currently two people on death row in the state, the DPIC said.

The House of Delegates and state Senate bills are each likely to have strong support after gaining a Democratic majority last year. The legislature has pushed progressive bills forward since Democrats took control.

House Delegate Minority Leader Todd Gilbert did not immediately respond to a request from ABC News for comment. However, at least one Republican state senator, Bill Stanley, told The Associated Press in December he would support a new bill.

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Opposition to the death penalty is at its highest point in almost half a century, according to Gallup Democrats in particular have increasingly turned against the death penalty in recent years, arguing Abolish it. Candidates who have called for abolishing capital punishment altogether say inmates

a large house: The Virginia State Capitol is pictured on April 16, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. © Zach Gibson/Getty Images, FILE The Virginia State Capitol is pictured on April 16, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam said he supports the bill and will sign it if passed in the state legislature.

"I'm committed to abolishing the death penalty in Virginia," he said in a statement.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the DPIC, told ABC News a death penalty abolishment would be a significant move, as most of the country's executions take place in Deep South states.

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"There hasn't been [a state] execution west of Texas in more than five years. There has been a national erosion," Dunham told ABC News. "The last area so far that has evaded that erosion is the South."

Dunham credited the changing public opinion and election of progressive prosecutors and leaders for the change in Virginia. The state hasn't issued a death sentence in five years, he said.

"It's become a less partisan issue and people have been able to reach across the aisle to bring reform," he said. "We now have a situation where eliminating the death penalty can be a vehicle of healing. Now is the time for that."

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, according to the DPIC. Three others -- California, Oregon and Pennsylvania -- have issued a moratorium on capital punishment.

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With the 4-1 win in Augsburg, VfB Stuttgart became the best away team in the league - the cornerstone of victory was laid by a penalty that was not one for Augsburg's Daniel Caligiuri. © imago images Caused a penalty against Stuttgart: Reece Oxford. "From my point of view, it was far too little," said Caligiuri after the final whistle on the "Sky" microphone, referring to the penalty that led to Stuttgart's early 1-0.

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