Virginia's electric chair
Electric chair at the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia. Designed and installed by Adams Electric Co., Trenton, New Jersey. (Credit: Library of Virginia) (Image provided by State of Virginia in News Release 03/24/21)

On March 24, 2021, the State of Virginia became the 23rd state in the United States to end capital punishment.  The two men who sit on Virginia’s Death Row, Anthony Joiner and Thomas Porter, will have their sentences commuted to LWOP (life without parole).  For more, read “Virginia, with 2nd-most executions, outlaws death penalty,” written by Denise Lavoie and published by the Associated Press on March 24, 2021.

Among the reasons cited by the State of Virginia in its news release yesterday is the issue of race in capital punishment, explaining (emphasis added):

Studies have shown that a defendant is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death if the victim of a crime is White, than if the victim is Black. In the twentieth century, 296 of the 377 defendants that Virginia executed were Black. Of the 113 individuals who have been executed in Virginia since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 52 were Black.

From Virginia Governor Ralph Northam:

“Over our 400-year history, Virginia has executed more people than any other state.  The death penalty system is fundamentally flawed—it is inequitable, ineffective, and it has no place in this Commonwealth or this country. Virginia has come within days of executing innocent people, and Black defendants have been disproportionately sentenced to death. Abolishing this inhumane practice is the moral thing to do. This is a truly historic day for Virginia, and I am deeply grateful to those who have fought tirelessly and for generations to put an end to capital punishment in our Commonwealth.”

For more on issues surrounding the Death Penalty in this country, read:  Six Major Issues Concerning the Death Penalty.