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Reacting to news that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed a bill to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth, Kristina Roth, Senior Advocate for Criminal Justice Programs at Amnesty International USA, released the following statement:

“We welcome this news. The death penalty is irreversible, it is ineffective, and it does not deter crime. The way the death penalty is carried out is painful, violent, and inhumane, and it is targeted in this country disproportionately against communities of color. The use of the death penalty as a punishment is outdated, fundamentally broken and must end once and for all.

“With Governor Northam’s signature today, Virginia has now joined 22 other states, including Washington, D.C., that have abandoned the death penalty. Virginia, once a stronghold of the confederacy, now becomes the first Southern state to end the ultimate denial of human rights that is the death penalty.  Virginia has the record for most executions in U.S. history, and a sordid past with the use of the death penalty against Black people, applied arbitrarily. A Black defendant in Virginia is three times more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim is white rather than Black. 

“Beginning in 2020, the Trump administration carried out 13 federal executions, breaking a 17-year hiatus from the ultimate punishment. These federal executions raised the specter of the same irreparable problems we know the death penalty has at all levels, including racial bias, the executions of people with intellectual disabilities and arbitrariness of defendants sentenced to death. This step from Virginia is a welcome unintended consequence of the Trump execution spree. We hope to see more states work to retire this most extreme punishment to where it belongs — as a relic of the past, not a part of our future.”

Background 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally. Learn more about Amnesty International USA’s death penalty work here.